Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi
Several municipalities meet the 2016 Parliamentary Elections with united election districts. Therefore, two municipalities will have one single mandate MP in the 9th convocation of Georgian Parliament. The political parties and experts negatively assessed the amendment, which was done to equalize the votes of electorate. Beside negative evaluation, the representatives of the political parties gave positive assessment to the amendment.
“We think the division is correct, because there was not equal number of voters in different districts. There are 3000 registered voters in Kazbegi municipality while Kutaisi has 156000 voters, but both of them had 1 single mandate MP in the parliament. Now, of the number voters is balanced and I think, it will be easier for the elected MP to meet the population in his/her district and do things properly. However, if there was regional-proportional system, the problem that people from Vani had to vote for a candidate from Vani and not from Khoni was eliminated. As we are talking about equality, we have to say that it will not be easy to elect one single mandate from two absolutely different districts. Though, it is already the reality and we have to adapt”, - said Nato Katamadze, single mandate candidate from the Republican Party in the Kutaisi election district #48.
The experts evaluated the amendments to the Election Code negatively even before it was accepted. They explained that the process was not transparent and the main point is that international standards were violated.
“We remember the Constitutional Court’s decision, which said that it was important to start re-demarcation of the districts to balance the votes. However, the process, unfortunately, did not comply with international standards. While making reforms, during re-demarcation, everybody’s engagement is important, including the political parties, experts, local and international organizations. In order to avoid the division based on concrete political views and to respect the principle, it is important to take geographical-historical and other criteria into account. Unfortunately, the process was not transparent. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association presented the conclusion about those challenges”, - clarified Irma Pavliashvili, GYLA election projects’ coordinator.
Irma Pavliashvili believes the election system is still a main challenge in our country, because all previous problems are still on the place.
“We have to mention the second problem as well. Unfortunately, it was not solved within the frames of the election system. The issue is how proportionally the votes are transferred into mandates. Unfortunately, we are still facing this problem. The discussion about it started even in the beginning of 2015 and we presented the recommendations to the government – in order to create fair and equal election environment. Afterwards, it was discussed in the Constitutional Court that was appealed by the representatives of the “National Movement”. However, the Constitutional Court did not take the idea into account claiming that the division was done based on political affiliation and left present situation”, - says Pavliashvili.
The majority of politicians say the election code does not allow us to think that elections are conducted impartially in Georgia.
“The division of districts was done counting on personalities and results from previous elections, which is even aggravating the unsophisticated situation with the single mandate’s system. All in all, it will cause misuse of state resources. Under those circumstances, the ruling party will always have the advantage. There are districts where people cannot choose local resident into the Parliament. For example, those municipalities are Samtredia-Vani, Terjola-Tkibuli etc. It is direct violation of the electorate’s right. Also, another problem is unity of the resources and selection of the person who will be popular and have chance of victory in both districts to win the elections”, - said Gia Tsamtsishvili, representative of the political party Girchi.
The legislative initiative had big objection from the National Movement..
“The geography is not taken into account here that is absolute wreck. It will have visible negative impact on the elections. The chairwoman of the Central Election Commission agreed with me that the administration of the elections will be more difficult. In particular, let’s take an example of Vani and Khoni districts, which does not have even common highway. How can they have only one single mandate candidate. I do not talk about Kutaisi which was united with 5 villages. It is impossible to imagine how Kutaisi single mandate candidate will take care of Terjola villages when Kutaisi has its own, urban peculiarities and problems, while Terjola and its village’s problems are mostly related to the agriculture and other things. This is big discomfort, which in the first place creates problems for the single mandate candidate and afterwards the MP and their office. Also, it makes the administration of the election process difficult, consequently to conduct fair elections that results into additional problems”, - said Giorgi Ukleba, the member of the National Movement.