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Ruling Party's New Proposals on Electoral System Reform
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 25 Jun.'11 / 13:25

The ruling National Movement party tabled on June 24 new set of electoral system reform proposals on which the group of eight opposition parties is expected to give its response early next week.

Pavle Kublashvili, a senior ruling party lawmaker and chief negotiator on electoral-related issues, handed over proposals to Mamuka Katsitadze of New Rights Party from the group of eight opposition parties at a meeting on June 24.

Key points of the proposal center around electoral system with an offer to increase number of seats in Parliament, as well as on party and campaign funding and voter lists.

Electoral System

In the new proposal, the ruling party offers increasing number of lawmakers in the new Parliament, to be elected in 2012, from current 150 to 190, wherein 107 will be elected through party-list, proportional system and 83 seats will be allocated to majoritarian MPs elected in single-mandate constituencies.

Under the existing system 150 seats are split equally (75/75) between MPs elected through party-list and majoritarian systems.

A prime ministerial candidate, under the new constitution from late 2013, will require support of more than half of lawmakers, which is at least 96 votes in case the ruling party's new proposals go into force.

Under the new constitution two-third of votes will be needed to override presidential veto on constitutional amendments, which in case of 190-member Parliament will be 127 votes; to override presidential veto on prime ministerial candidate during constructive non-confidence vote Parliament will need three-fifth of votes, which in case of 190 seats will be 114 votes.

Under the current system, wherein a majoritarian MP is elected through winner-takes-all system, the ruling party endorsed its candidates in 71 out of 75 single-mandate constituencies in 2008 parliamentary elections. In addition the ruling party endorsed 48 lawmakers through proportional, party-list system after receiving 59.18% of votes. As a result, although the National Movement in party-list contest received 59.18% support, it managed to take total of 119 seats, which makes 79.3% of seats in the 150-member legislative body.

Key point of group of eight’s April 5 proposal was to introduce a system, which will prevent such a situation wherein party’s majority in the Parliament is larger proportionally than its overall share of the vote.

Voters List

In order to verify accuracy of voter lists, the ruling party is offering to establish a special commission composed of representatives from the authorities, opposition and civil society organizations "on parity basis."

Only those parties will be eligible to take seat in the commission, which will join this deal on proposed electoral system reform.

The commission, according to the proposal, should secure verification of voter list in a period between October 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. The commission's work will be funded from the state budget.

Unlike the recent one, the ruling party's previous proposal, tabled on March 9, was partly addressing the opposition demand and was offering to draw up voter list based on biometric identification system only in Tbilisi; the opposition wanted the system to be applied throughout the country.
 
Party, Campaign Funding

The ruling party's proposal envisages doubling of limits set for donations to a party's electoral campaign.

The proposal offers to allow a party to receive GEL 60,000 as a donation from a single individual and GEL 200,000 from a single company.

According to the existing electoral code, a party can raise no more than GEL 30,000 from a single individual and no more than GEL 100,000 from a single company.

In the May, 2010 local elections campaign of those five parties, which have cleared 5% electoral threshold was worth of up to GEL 16 million and almost 90% of this sum was the ruling National Movement's share. Much of the ruling party’s funding came from companies with most of them operating in road construction business.

Opposition frequently complains that because of businesses’ reluctance to support them out of fear before the authorities, they permanently face problems in getting funding. With the ruling party’s campaign funding outstripping extensively the one of all the opposition parties together, there have even been calls to impose limitations on spending during the campaign.

In addition, the ruling party's proposal offers to allocate GEL 1 million for those parties, which will clear 5% electoral threshold in next parliamentary elections in order to cover campaign expenses, GEL 300,000 of which will be used specifically for covering TV advertisement cost. Prices on political TV ads ahead of elections usually are increasing ten-fold on the most-watched national broadcasters.

This provision on funding, however, will apply only to those parties, which will become part of this agreement on electoral system reform.

In other proposals the ruling party has also offered increase of deadline for consideration of electoral complaints from current two days.

According to the proposal, relevant amendments to the election code should be passed by the Parliament no later than October, 2011.

Davit Usupashvili, leader of Republican Party, said that despite of all speculation about difficulties within the group of eight the coalition, which has an agreement to cooperate only on electoral-related issues, acted under the joint plan.

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