- Voter marking to remain in practice;
- Deadline for voter list check commission extended;
- Five year residency requirement for MP candidates dropped;
- Financial incentives for parties to have women MP candidates;
The Parliament approved on December 23 portion of the draft of the electoral code with its second reading and decided to vote on some of the provision after additional discussions.
Among the provisions, which lawmakers said would be further discussed before final approval, address issues related to independent majoritarian MP candidates, media monitoring and media coverage of electoral campaign, electoral complaints and fines.
The ruling party dropped plans to remove from the election code a provision envisaging voter marking procedure after the recommendations from the election watchdog groups. As a result this provision has been included in the draft passed with the second reading. The system of marking a finger with special invisible ink to avoid multiple voting has been in practice in Georgia since partially annulled November 2003 parliamentary elections.
The draft, approved with the second hearing, has prolonged the deadline for a state-funded commission to verify voters list from initially envisaged July to August, 2012. The commission, which is chaired by Mamuka Katsitadze of the opposition New Rights Party, has been boycotted by most of the non-parliamentary opposition saying that it was not an effective tool for creating reliable voters list. Instead they were offering drawing up the voter registry based on biometric identification system; a relevant draft was presented to the Parliament on December 23 by an opposition faction Unity for Justice; as it was expected the proposal was voted down.
The draft also authorizes the voter list checking commission to monitor the list even after submitting to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in August, 2012. The CEC, according to the draft, will have to “immediately” notify the commission if the voter list is modified. In another change related to the same commission, the draft downsized seats in the commission from initially envisaged 21 to 15.
During the discussion of the draft on December 23, the ruling party rejected some opposition lawmakers’ calls for banning regional governors and mayors from taking part in electoral campaign in favor of a political party, as recommended by the Venice Commission.
The ruling party has also declined a proposal to ban campaigning within 50-meters of radios from polling stations on the election day.
The draft code does not include any ban on election day campaigning, except of prohibiting political ads on TV and radio. The Venice Commission was recommending banning of any type of campaign activity during the last 24 hours prior to elections.
The draft, passed with second reading, no longer contains a provision on five year residency requirement for a person willing to run for a parliamentary seat. The current election code sets a ten-year residency term with an additional requirement that a candidate must have lived in Georgia (or been registered with a Georgian diplomatic mission aboard) for last two years before the announcement of elections. The initial draft was setting residency requirement at five years, but it is now removed and the only requirement left is that a candidate must have lived [or been registered with a Georgian diplomatic mission abroad] for last two years before the announcement of elections.
The modified draft also envisages financial incentives for the parties, which will have women MP candidates; exact scheme of this funding has yet to be defined.
On December 23 the Parliament also approved with a 114 to 4 vote the election-related constitutional amendments with its second hearing, envisaging the Parliament’s slightly reshaped configuration with 77 party-list and 73 majoritarian MPs, instead of existing 75/75. According to the same constitutional amendments a party or an election bloc, clearing a 5% threshold, will be automatically awarded with six seats in the Parliament, thus having a possibility to form a parliamentary faction.