With the electoral reform talks currently stalled, four watchdog groups observing the process, laid out set of recommendations on May 2, which, they say, “are essential to a better election environment.”
Set of proposals by Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; New Generation New Initiative and Transparency International Georgia, involve areas such as voter list, electoral system, electoral administration, use of administrative resource, mechanisms for government’s response to electoral violations and their investigation and monitoring election campaign funds.
“The failure to address one of them will leave significant gaps in the framework,” the four organizations said in a joint statement.
On electoral system, which remains one of the major sticking points between the opposition and the ruling party, the watchdog groups urged to create a system which would secure proportionality between the number of votes received by a party and mandates obtained in the Parliament. They also called for “fair allocation of mandates” by the majoritarian electoral system.
“The current rules for Majoritarian election have significant shortfalls,” the statement reads. “On the one hand, the existing system unfairly distributes mandates by election district [existing boundaries of electoral districts does not secure principle of equality of the vote] and, on the other hand, doesn’t guarantee the proportionality between a specific party’s received votes and seats in the Parliament.”
In 2008 parliamentary elections, the ruling party endorsed its candidates in 71 out of 75 single-mandate majoritarian constituencies. In addition, the ruling party endorsed 48 lawmakers through proportional after receiving 59.18% of votes in the party-list contest and in overall secured 119 seats, which makes 79.3% of seats in the 150-member legislative body.
The group of eight opposition parties, which has an agreement to speak with one voice with the authorities over electoral issues, is also demanding the change of the current system with a new one so that to secure proportionality between the votes a party receives and overall seats (both gained through majoritarian and party-list) allocated to that party in the Parliament.
On voter list, the watchdog groups called for considering a possibility of transferring responsibility of maintaining the voter registry from Central Election Commission to the Civil Registry Agency of the Ministry of Justice.
Currently, voter list is compiled by CEC from databases provided by several government agencies in various formats increasing the risk of inaccuracies.
“The Civil Registry provides the vast majority of the voter list data and in the recent years it has demonstrated itself as one of the most efficient government agencies in terms of data collection and management,” the four organizations said.
They also called for more flexible procedures for making corrections in the voter list.
On electoral administration, the groups called for ensuring full transparency of process of appointment Central Election Commission members and to deny membership in all level of electoral commissions to those individuals who committed violations in the previous elections. They also recommended that CEC members should approve the most important decisions with 2/3 of majority votes.
On use of administrative resources for pre-election campaign, the four organizations said that there should be “a clear line” between the ruling party’s election campaign and the work of the government officials; they also called for limiting participation of public officials in the electoral campaign.
The groups called on the government to increase efficiency of its inter-agency task force, usually created ahead of elections to respond to electoral-related violations. “Unfortunately, the inter-agency task force didn’t always manage to conduct a timely investigation of electoral violations and the appropriate penalty for violators,” the four organizations said in the statement.
The groups also called on the authorities to investigate all the previous electoral-related violations. “Unfortunately, several major violations from the 2010 self-government elections are still left uninvestigated,” they said.
The groups said that the current system for financial reporting by the parties “is too general”, which fails to provide an in-depth analysis of their financial sources and expenditures; they called for creating more comprehensive mechanism to better monitor election campaign funds.
The four organizations also called for restricting the introduction of changes to the electoral legislation in the period before the elections.