An electoral system reform deal made between the ruling party and some others falls short of securing free and fair elections, three local election watchdog groups said in a joint statement.
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA); International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Transparency International Georgia, which have been observing electoral-related developments, said the issue required a comprehensive approach and addressing only part of problems would fail to resolve the problem.
The groups said in the joint statement on June 30, that proposed system in which number of MPs will be increased from 150 to 190 with 83 elected in single-mandate majoritarian constituencies and 107 through party-list system was not at all addressing an issue of proportionality between the number of votes received by a party and mandates obtained in the Parliament. Like under the existing system, it is also possible under the proposed system, that at the expense of winning most of the single-mandate seats, overall seats in the Parliament gained by a party may not be proportional to share of votes received by this party in the party-list contest.
On the other hand, the watchdog groups also raise concerns about legal aspects of the proposal to increase number of MP seats, because the decision to downsize the Parliament to 150 MPs was taken in 2003 referendum. The groups say that revising that decision without holding a new referendum on the issue will violate Georgia’s law on referendum. Those who have joined the deal on electoral system reform argue that 2003 referendum itself was held with violation of the constitution and increase of number of MPs will not require a new referendum.
The three watchdog groups welcomed the proposal on setting up a special group with representatives of political parties, non-governmental organizations and executive authorities to verify voters list long before the elections. The groups, however, reiterated its earlier call for assigning the Justice Ministry’s civil registry as the sole agency with ultimate responsibility for creating, maintaining and updating the voters list. Currently, voter list is compiled by CEC from databases provided by several government agencies in various formats increasing the risk of inaccuracies.
The watchdog groups also said that a proposal to establish a governmental inter-agency task force to monitor misuse of administrative resources, like during the previous elections, was not enough for addressing this problem.
The groups welcomed a proposal to increase deadline for consideration of electoral complaints from current two to four days. They, however, also said that other provisions of the electoral code addressing this issue required further improvements as they now leave room for double-interpretation.
The groups also called for setting up an effective independent body, which would monitor campaign funds and donations to political parties. The groups said they disagree with a proposal on doubling the cap on donations, saying that it will not secure creating more competitive electoral environment.