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What kind of changes were made to the Election Code?

August 18, 2020
Lana Giorgidze 

On July 2, the Parliament of Georgia approved the changes to the election legislation by the third hearing (94 in favor and one against). The draft law offers many novelties to the political parties, media and voters in terms of election campaigns. 

According to the official note disseminated by the Parliament of Georgia, the large portion of the changes presented in the legislative package is based on the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR.

“The above recommendations concern the improvement of the electoral legislation in the main directions like:  Election administration; media campaign and live time; preelection environment; prevention of the use of administrative resources; hearing of the election disputes and second round of elections. The changes also concern the issues of gender quotas. Moreover, the election legislation is brought in compliance with the Constitutional Draft Law adopted on June 29, according to which the Parliamentary Elections shall be held with a mixed system - 120 MPs shall be elected through a proportional electoral system and 30 MPs shall be elected through a majoritarian electoral  system,” reads the note disseminated by the Parliament of Georgia.

“Transparency International Georgia” welcomes the issue of amending the election legislation and believes that many issues will be regulated in better terms. 

“Despite many positive changes, some problematic issues still remain in the election legislation, including the following to be mentioned: The defective manner of staffing the election commissions that causes the increase in the pressure from political parties on the activity of the commission; the time frames of appointing the members of the election commission with professional skills and insufficient regulations governing the appointments; insufficient regulation of election campaigning through social networks and particular deficiencies existing in terms of election disputes and procedures of appeals,” reads the statement disseminated by the Transparency International Georgia.

Giorgi Kakubava, the coordinator of the project of the NGO Human Rights Center positively assesses changes directed towards remedying the deficiencies in the legislation, and towards consolidating specific regulations at the normative level; however he believes it is necessary that the above legislative changes were enforced in proper terms. 

“The amendments made to the organic law concerned the election environment and the use of the administrative resources, the issues of funding of the parties, also the issues of gender quotas in the parties; further the changes concerned media regulations. We have to positively assess the changes related to reducing the timeframes for drawing up the reports of offenses in the National Commission of Communications and in the election commissions. 

Further, we have to admit that the timeframes for hearing the disputes related to the use of administrative resources in the election commissions were reduced from one month to 10 days. By all means, hearing of the cases within lesser time limits will promote that the cases are not stretched in time, but this should not  reflect on the quality of the examination of the cases and we should not receive so called  “one size fits all approach” towards the cases to be heard.  In order to impartially examine the cases, they will need sufficient human resources that certainly should be provided by the CEC,” says Giorgi Kakubava, the project coordinator at HRC. 

The representative of the HRC believes that the restrictions provided by the legislation aim at not to allow campaigning on the election day: “NGOs several times applied to the Government of Georgia to ban campaigning on the election day, and requested to elaborate the changes. On the given stage, the changes made to the organic law more or less respond to the demands of the civil society.”  

In accordance with the changes made to the Election Code, the placement of campaign materials shall not be allowed within 25 meters from the polling station, also physical hindering of the movement of persons shall not be allowed within 25 meters from the precinct.

The problem is touched upon by Vakhushti Menabde, the representative of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association in his interview with Netgazeti, who stated that taking into account the multi-year practice of the GYLA “the main problems that we face on the election day take place ... outside the precincts. According to Menabde, this is a conclusion not only by GYLA but by other international organizations: “Therefore let’s go further with the regulation - the perimeter has to be increased where no one except the authorized persons and voters may be allowed to be present.”

Beside the above changes, according to the note of Transparency International Georgia, the amendments concern also the issue of funding the parties.  

“The barrier for receiving state funding is reduced and the formula for the funding is simplified: The party shall receive the funding where it has received 1% (instead of 3%) or more of the votes in the last parliamentary elections; for the first 50 000 votes received - GEL 15 for each vote; after 50 000 - GEL 5 for each vote. For the counter-campaigning against a political party the sanctions are in place now,” reads the statement

The changes concern also the issues of gender quotas. According to the amendments, for the Parliamentary Elections to be conducted until 2028, in the list submitted by the parties, one in every four candidates shall be a person of a different gender. Where a party includes one candidate of a different gender in every three candidates of the party list, the state funding shall be increased with 30%. 

“The amendments made to the Election Code in terms of quotas do not meet the decent principle of equality,” Sergi Kapanadze, an MP, said when talking to Mtavari. 

“By the proposed system of quotas, the problem, which is the discrimination of women and a few number of women in politics is not resolved. The problem must be tackled with the fight at the source of the problem and not with artificial, temporary measures,” Sergi Kapanadze said.

Independent MP, Eka Beselia submitted alternative changes in terms of gender quotas which the Parliament did not support. Eka Beselia proposed that the changes regarding the quota be enacted not from 2028 but from the current year and from every three candidates on the party list one should be a candidate with a different gender. Only six MPs supported the initiative. 

According to the note of the Transparency International Georgia, the changes concerned also the staffing issue of the election commissions: The regulation excluding the conflict of interest are introduced for staffing the precinct election commissions, in particular a member of the district election commission may not take part in the selection process if he/she is a family member of the candidate to the precinct election commission; further a selection as a non-party member of the commission is prohibited of the persons who were appointed by one of the parties during last general elections in any level of the commissions.”

Less than 3 months remain until the Parliamentary Elections of 2020, and irrespective the statements brought here, the political parties and NGOs shall report after the election day whether the changes had positive outcomes on the election process.