Eight opposition parties laid out on October 4 a joint proposal on electoral system reform and called on the authorities to launch talks on the blueprint.
National Forum, Conservative Party, Republican Party, Our Georgia-Free Democrats, Georgia’s Way, New Rights, Christian-Democratic Movement and Party of People held a conference on October 4 to discuss the proposal and to call on the international organizations to support the electoral system reform.
“Stability and democratic development of the country” depends on success of this process, the parties said in a joint statement.
The proposal focuses on five directions of electoral system reform, involving rule of electing the Parliament; rule of composition of election administrations; voter lists; election day procedures and handling of electoral complaints.
The proposal envisages election of 75 lawmakers in 150-seat Parliament through party-list, proportional system (as it is currently, no changes in this respect) and other half of lawmakers through so called “regional-proportional system”, instead of current practice of electing 75 lawmakers through winner-takes-all system in country’s 75 single-mandate constituencies.
Electing majoritarian MPs through “regional-proportional system” means that parties or election blocs will nominate several candidates in each constituency. In this case instead of currently existing single-mandate constituencies, multi-mandate constituencies will be introduced and number of seats available in each constituency will depend on their size. Seats in the parliament, under this system, will be allocated proportionally, based on the votes received by parties in a particular constituency. Under this system those parties, which clear 5% electoral threshold in that particular constituency, will be able to endorse majoritarian MPs to the Parliament from that constituency.
This rule, if implemented, will increase opposition parties’ chances to take more majoritarian seats in the Parliament. Under the current system, the ruling National Movement Party won 71 out of 75 majoritarian seats in the May, 2008 elections.
The proposal offers to cut number of seats in Central Election Commission (CEC) from current 13 to 7 and to compose CEC on a parity bases by each representative from those seven parties, which are currently holding seats in CEC, based on results of the May, 2010 local and May, 2008 parliamentary elections.
These seven parties now having seats in 13-member CEC are: the ruling National Movement party; Christian-Democratic Movement; a small party On Our Own; little-known Christian-Democratic People’s Party (these three latter parties ran jointly in a same bloc during the local elections under CDM’s umbrella and were able to gain seats in CEC); Industrialist Party, Conservative Party and Labor Party.
The change, what the opposition parties’ proposal involves, is to scrap those five seats in CEC, which are currently occupied by those persons who formally are not members of any political party, but are believed to be affiliated with the ruling party.
According to the proposal, seven members of CEC will name three candidates for the post of CEC chairman; it will be up to the President to choose one out of three candidates.
The proposal envisages maintaining current rule of composition of lower level election administrations in precincts and districts, meaning that, if implemented, each precinct and district election commission will still be composed of 13 members, wherein seven are representatives of political parties and others non-party members.
Biometric Voting System
The proposal calls for introduction of biometric technologies to identify voters through means of a fingerprint and from a photographic database in order to tackle problem of voter lists and potential double-voting – the problems, which are debated ahead of each elections in Georgia.
The opposition National Forum party has been leading a campaign for introduction of the system for months already. The party has even drafted a law and presented it to the Parliament for consideration.
The fourth proposal concerns number of election day procedures and offers installation of CCTV cameras at all polling stations, as well as electronic scanning of cast ballot papers during the vote tabulation.
The eight opposition parties’ proposal also offers new system of handling electoral complaints under which Tbilisi Court of Appeals should become body of last instance to hear electoral complaints.
The complaints, according to the proposal, will be heard by a panel of one judge from the Court of Appeals and four lay judges. Lay judges will be selected by ‘qualified’ political parties (those which won at least 4% of the vote in the last parliamentary elections and at least 3% of the vote in the last local elections). According to the proposal parties should have the right to recuse a judge. The 5-member panel will take decisions with majority vote, according to the proposal.