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Opposition, NGOs Call for Scrapping Majoritarian Part of Electoral System
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 May.'15 / 17:46

Fourteen political parties and eight civil society organizations have signed a joint petition on May 30, calling on the Parliament to replace “majoritarian” component of the electoral system with “regional-proportional” system.

The petition, also joined by parliamentary opposition parties, was adopted at a conference hosted by President Giorgi Margvelashvili on May 30.

Georgia has a mixed system in which 73 lawmakers in 150-seat Parliament are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies under the plurality voting rule and rest 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear 5% threshold.

“In the existing electoral system voters’ ballots are not proportionally translated into mandates [won by parties in parliamentary elections], number of wasted votes is high, and equality of suffrage not observed,” reads the petition.

The petition calls to introduce a system, where 75 MPs will be elected through nationwide proportional, party-list vote and another half of the seats will be distributed among the candidates elected through regional-proportional system.

Under the regional-proportional system, offered in the petition, multi-mandate constituencies will be introduced instead of existing single-mandate ones.

Introduction of such a system will require change of constitution, which at this point seems highly unlikely as it will need support of at least 113 lawmakers.

Even if the ruling Georgian Dream coalition agrees – it has yet to voice its position about electoral system – proposal to scrap the majoritarian component of the electoral system will be a tough sell to majoritarian MPs, regardless of their political affiliation.

On May 28 the Georgian Constitutional Court ruled that the existing majoritarian part of the electoral system undermines equality of vote and it should be changed.

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.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling does not mean that the majoritarian component of the electoral system should necessarily be scrapped.

Discrepancy in size of election districts can be addressed by re-drawing their borders and it does not require changing of the constitution.

The Georgia Dream coalition said that it was planning to present its proposal on electoral system reform in the near future, but no specific date has yet been named.

The main reason why the opposition parties are calling for scrapping of the majoritarian part of the electoral system is the argument that it favors governing political force.

Opponents of the existing system argue that it can potentially produce distribution of seats in Parliament different from those reflected in proportional, party-list election results. 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), where a similar system is applied, 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.

UNM, which was strongly against of scrapping the majoritarian system when it was the ruling party, has now joined the petition calling for it to be replaced by the regional-proportional system. Free Democrats Parliamentary opposition party has also joined the petition, along with more dozen of non-parliamentary opposition parties.

Republican, Conservative and National Forum parties, which are now part of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, were actively pushing for the regional-proportional system when they were in the opposition.

Among those eight non-governmental organizations, which have joined the petition are International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Transparency International Georgia.

Making amendments to the constitution is a lengthy and complicated process.

A constitutional amendment can be initiated by at least 76 MPs or by at least 200,000 voters. If a proposal is initiated, then it requires one-month long public discussions. Then it goes to the Parliament for consideration.

Amendment should be approved with three hearings and each time it needs support of at least 113 MPs. In addition, these three votes cannot be held during one plenary session cycle – if an amendment is approved with its two readings during a spring session of parliament, the third and final vote should be held during autumn session, several months later.

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