There is no instance of manipulation in redrawn boundaries of electoral districts, carried out by the Parliament in December 2015, Georgia’s Constitutional court ruled on July 20.
Lawmakers from the opposition UNM party filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court on June 1, claiming that the boundaries electoral districts were gerrymandered to the detriment of opposition parties.
The Constitutional Court ruled that “arguments provided by the applicants and analysis of boundaries of electoral districts do not show instance of abuse of electoral geography. Therefore, the constitutional complaint was rejected in this part.”
In another part of the same complaint, the applicants argued that tasking the Central Election Commission (CEC) to define boundaries of 30, out of 73 single-mandate constituencies, without setting clear criteria was fraught with risk of gerrymandering.
While the boundaries of 43 single-mandate districts were defined by the amended electoral code, delimitation of boundaries of remaining 30 constituencies – among them of Tbilisi’s 22 electoral districts, as well as 3 districts in Kutaisi; 3 in Batumi, and 2 in Rustavi, was carried out by the CEC.
Opinions of eight judges, participating in the adjudication, have split on this issue.
Outgoing chairman of Constitutional Court, Giorgi Papuashvili; deputy chairman of court Konstantine Vardzelashvili, as well as Ketevan Eremadze and Maia Kopaleishvili backed this part of the complaint.
But four other judges – Zaza Tavadze, Lali Papiashvili, Tamaz Tsabutashvili, and Otar Sichinava – were against; consequently this part of the complaint was also rejected.
The ninth member of the Constitutional Court, Merab Turava, did not participate in the adjudication; but his vote would not have been decisive anyway as six votes were required for the complaint to be successful.
Parliament adopted amendments to the election code in December, 2015 through which election districts were redrawn to narrow a huge discrepancy in size of single-mandate constituencies by merging some small districts and dividing larger ones.
As a result boundaries of single-mandate constituencies no longer coincide with those of administrative borders of municipalities.
Number of voters in each election district now varies from 41,598 in the smallest one (Tbilisi’s single-mandate constituency covering mostly the capital city’s Vake district) to 54,168 in the largest one (Rustavi’s one of the two single-mandate constituencies). Before the redistricting, number of voters was ranging from over 150,000 in the largest one to less than 6,000 in the smallest one.
The Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs said that legislative amendments, redrawing single-mandate constituencies, were an “important step forward” to hold elections respecting the principle of equal suffrage, but it also criticized the legislation for lacking specific method for establishing constituencies and criteria for permitted deviations in the number of voters among districts.
Georgia has a mixed electoral system in which 73 lawmakers are elected in 73 single-member constituencies, known in Georgia as “majoritarian” mandates (a candidate has to win over 50% of votes in order to be an outright winner in the first round, otherwise a second round should be held), and rest 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear 5% threshold in nationwide popular vote.