Parliament passed on Wednesday with 77 votes to 7 with its third and final reading bill on local self-governance reform.
The bill, which has been watered down from its initial version, envisages direct election of mayors in twelve towns, as well as direct election of heads of all the municipalities starting from this year’s local elections.
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- Local Self-Governance Reform Bill
Debates are now focused on electoral system, set of rules under which local elections should be held, tentatively, in June.
Georgian Dream ruling coalition’s proposal includes setting of 40% threshold for electing mayors, meaning that a candidate will require garnering more than others but not less than 40% of votes in order to be declared an outright winner of the race without needing a runoff. Now Tbilisi is the only city where mayor is elected directly and the threshold is currently set at 30%. GD wants to set 33% threshold for electing heads of municipalities (gamgebeli).
Non-parliamentary opposition parties, as well as a group of some leading civil society organizations, were insisting on having a 50% threshold.
They were also calling for replacing single-mandate constituencies for electing majoritarian members of the local councils (Sakrebulos) with multi-mandate constituencies and introducing block vote system; the proposal was rejected by the GD.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Transparency International Georgia said on February 5 that proposals of the GD coalition fail to security fair electoral system. They also said that work of an inter-faction group to develop new electoral system was a “formality” and proposals tabled by the GD ruling majority are “superficial”.
Planned changes also includes lowering of threshold from current 5% to 4% for the party-list, proportional contest for seats in Sakrebulos in provinces, meaning that a party garnering at least 4% in elections will be able to endorse its members in respective municipality’s Sakrebulo. The threshold is 4% in Tbilisi and it will remain so, according to GD proposal.