Parliament passed with 82 votes to 19 with its first reading on April 3 amendment to election code, which, if it goes into forces, will pave the way for holding by-elections in June to fill vacant majoritarian seats in several local city councils (Sakrebulo), including in Tbilisi.
Under the current election code by-elections to fill vacant seats in Sakrebulos should be held in respective constituencies either in September or October; by-election should be held only if there are five vacant seats in Sakrebulo and in case if more than two years remain before expiration of four-year term of Sakrebulo.
Under the Georgian Dream-proposed amendment by-elections should be held if number of vacant majoritarian seats in Sakrebulo is at least three; by-elections can also be held in February, June and October, as well as if more than one year remains before the expiration of sitting Sakrebulo’s term.
The most recent local elections in which sitting Sakrebulos were elected across the country was held in May, 2010 and they were convened in June, 2010.
In case of enforcement of the amendment, by-elections will be held in June in several constituencies of six municipalities; these are: Oni, where Sakrebulo now has five vacant majoritarian seats; Mestia, where local council now has four vacant seats; Tbilisi, Khobi and Tsalka, whose Sakrebulos now have three vacant majoritarian seats each.
UNM lawmakers, who are against of the proposal, say that the amendment is part of Georgian Dream’s efforts to gain control over Tbilisi Sakrebulo, where UNM still holds a narrow majority.
Chairman of Central Election Commission, Zurab Kharatishvili, warned lawmakers on April 3 that approval of the proposed amendments without proper deliberation of other provisions of existing election code might lead to complication of CEC’s work. He said that new regulations, combined with already introduced amendments envisaging holding MP by-elections in April in addition to October, might potentially create collisions in respect of some procedural deadlines and composition of district election commissions. He called on the Parliament to engage actively with the CEC and other stakeholders while considering amendments to the election code.