Several non-parliamentary opposition parties, which have teamed up to jointly push for change of electoral system, said on December 8 that they are seeking a meeting with PM Irakli Garibashvili to convey their demands involving scrapping of majoritarian component of the system.
Georgia has a mixed system in which 73 lawmakers in 150-seat Parliament are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies, and rest 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear 5% threshold.
Arguing that the majoritarian component of this system can potentially produce distribution of seats in Parliament different from those reflected in proportional, party-list election results, non-parliamentary opposition wants the majoritarian part of the system to be canceled and the Parliament to be composed solely by lawmakers elected in party-list contest.
Difference between distribution of seats and votes received in party-list contest was obvious in the previous Parliament, when then ruling UNM party was holding over 79% of seats although receiving slightly over 59% of votes in 2008 parliamentary elections. That was because UNM at the time won all but four single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies across the country.
But it was not the case in 2012 elections, when overall seats won by Georgian Dream coalition and UNM, both in majoritarian and proportional contests, mainly matched share of votes they won in party-list contest.
Mismatch, however, was evident in the 2014 local elections for Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo), when although receiving 46% of votes in party-list contest, GD gained 74% of seats in Tbilisi Sakrebulo because of winning all but one single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies of the capital city.
The size of single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies vary from each other by number of voters – ranging from over 150,000 voters in the largest one to less than 6,000 voters in the smallest one.
Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs, Venice Commission, has long been recommending Georgia to address existing disparity as it undermines the principle of equality of suffrage.
It was one of the issues discussed when a delegation from a monitoring committee of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) visited Georgia last week.
“As the Venice Commission concluded the majoritarian part of the electoral law does not comply with the Council of Europe standards,” Boriss Cilevičs, a co-rapporteurs from PACE on honouring Georgia’s obligations, said on December 5. “The size of electoral districts is so different that MPs are elected by very different number of voters. It’s time to change the legislation so that to complete this process on time.”
The issue was among the topics discussed during a meeting between parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili and representatives from PACE monitoring committee in Tbilisi on December 5.
“Existing majoritarian constituencies, which significantly vary from each other by number of voters… is subject of criticisms, including from PACE monitors and we are being asked whether we are going to change the system or to provide for equal size of constituencies,” Usupashvili said after the meeting.
“This question should be answered soon,” he continued. “We should define whether we are going to address this issue or not and it should happen by February or March at the latest, otherwise we won’t have enough time to reflect these changes in the electoral code [ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections].”
Representatives from the group of about ten non-parliamentary opposition parties, which among others also includes New Rights party and Democratic Movement-United Georgia (DMUG), led by Nino Burjanadze, and which is demanding scrapping of the majoritarian system, met late last month Usupashvili. The parliament speaker is also a chairman of constitutional reform commission. If the decision is made in favor of scrapping the majoritarian system, it will require a constitutional change, which needs support of at least 113 MPs. But if decision is made to keep the majoritarian system and to only change it, it will require amendments only in the election code.