On 5 February 2014, the Georgian Parliament adopted the Local Self-Government Code with the third hearing. The said document triggered a huge interest among political elites and society at large. Non-governmental organisations also expressed their positions.
One of the controversial issues in respect to the Local Self-Government Code was the introduction of a re-election mechanism of mayors (governors). According to the evaluations of various non-governmental organisations, the introduction of the re-election mechanism is important; however, the proposed norm weakens the significance of the institution of an elected mayor (governor). In particular, they are concerned about Article 48 of the Code encompassing the proposition of a vote of no-confidence to a directly elected mayor (governor). The non-governmental organisations explain that the abovementioned procedure contradicts the principle of representative democracy and can be used for political motives. In particular, a city assembly can initiate the process of a no-confidence motion if there is a partisan or any other confrontation between the majority of the city assembly and a mayor (governor).
On 23 January 2014, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, commented upon the abovementioned issue: “The phenomenon of re-election [of a governor, mayor] exists in democratic systems; whether or not such a mechanism should exist in the Georgian legislation is another question.”FactCheck checked the accuracy of the President’s statement.
Article 39 of the still active Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government (as of 16 December 2013) regulates the procedure of the appointment of a governor (mayor) as well as his/her obligations and authority. According to Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the same Article, a governor (mayor) is appointed by the chairman of the city assembly with the consent of the city assembly. Additionally, in accordance with the Law of Georgia on Civil Service, the chairman of the city assembly is authorised to dismiss the governor (mayor) with the consent of the city assembly in the case if the chairperson evaluates the governor’s (mayor’s) performance as insufficient. Herewith, it is of note that the abovementioned rule does not concern a directly elected mayor since only the Mayor of Tbilisi is elected by the principle of direct elections. The authorities of the Mayor of Tbilisi are regulated by the Law on the Capital of Georgia – Tbilisi.
According to the initial version of the new edition of the Local Self-Government Code, the governor (mayor) shall be elected by direct, universal, equal vote through secret ballot for the term of four years (Article 47, Paragraph 1). Article 48 of the same Organic Law defines the procedures of proposing a vote of no-confidence to the governor (mayor):
- The ground for initiating a vote of no-confidence against a governor (mayor) shall be a written motion of more than half of the assembly members or at least 20% of the registered municipality voters (Paragraph 1).
- The motion shall be reviewed within ten calendar days following its submission. The governor (mayor) shall be deemed impeached if the motion is supported by two-thirds of the assembly members. The vote of no-confidence entails the termination of the governor’s (mayor’s) authority.
- In the event of not impeaching a governor (mayor) by the assembly, a repeated initiation of the process shall not be permitted within the next six months.
- The proposition of the vote of no-confidence and impeaching a governor (mayor) shall be impermissible within six months following the elections of the self-government entities as well as during the last one year of the governor’s (mayor’s) term of office.
The Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government has not been amended in this respect either by the second or the third hearing of the Local Self-Government Code. Only one sentence was added to Article 48 of the draft bill (Article 50 in the draft bill adopted by the second hearing): “Authenticity of the electors’ signatures is verified by the city assembly.”
The Code does not identify the concrete cases when a city assembly is authorised to propose a vote of no-confidence. Consequently, the city assembly has absolute freedom of action. Based upon the aforementioned, probability emerges that the instrument of voting of no-confidence may be used as a political weapon and the will of the majority of the voters will be neglected.
The Code does not envisage any other ground for the terminating of a governor’s (mayor’s) authority (Article 53 of the draft bill adopted by the second hearing). In particular, the grounds for terminating the governor’s (mayor’s) authority shall be as follows:
a) Expiry of the term of office
c) Entering into force of a guilty verdict against him/her
e) Declaring by the court as incapable, gone missing or deceased
f) Termination of Georgian citizenship
g) Proposition of a vote of no-confidence by the assembly (discussed above)
h) Occupying an incompatible position or pursuance of incompatible activities provided for in the Law of Georgia on the Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Civil Service
i) Cases provided for in Chapter XVIII of the present Code
As Giorgi Margvelashvili stated, the principle of re-electing a mayor also exists in other democratic countries. In order to verify the abovementioned statement, we looked into the practice of several EU member states. The research showed that such a mechanism does exist in a number of countries. A discussion of the relevant legislation of all of the respective states will take us too much time herein. Therefore, we will apply to several examples only.Italy In Italy the municipality mayors and the members of the assembly are elected for a term of five years through direct elections. The law (
Decreto Legislativo 18 Agosto 2000, n. 267) regulates their authorities that encompass the possibility of proposing a vote of no-confidence to the mayor (Article 51). In particular, the vote of no-confidence can be initiated by no less than two-fifths of the council members. The process will be regarded as legitimate if supported by the absolute majority of the assembly.Slovakia In Slovakia the status of a local self-government is defined by Act 369/1990
Coll adopted by the National Council of Slovakia.
According to the aforementioned Act, mayors are elected through direct elections. The grounds for terminating a mayor’s authority shall be as follows (Paragraph 13a):
a) Refusing to make an oath of office
b) Expiration of the term of office
d) Conviction of an intentional crime or being found guilty for a criminal offense
e) Declared as incapable
f) As a result of a local referendum on the mayor's dismissal. The referendum shall be appealed by 30% of the voters or in the case of the mayor’s gross violations of his/her competences, the Constitution of Slovakia, constitutional laws, laws or other legal obligations. In this case, the decision to hold a referendum is made by the majority of the assembly.
g) Change of permanent residence from the village, municipality, city or other type of settlement where he/she performs the function.
i) Abolition of a village (municipality)
As becomes evident, in Slovakia the procedure of a vote of no-confidence is initiated based upon the referendum results.Czech Republic In the Czech Republic a mayor (governor) is elected
by the city assembly from its own members and the assembly itself holds the authority of dismissing the elected mayor.Poland In Poland mayors are elected through direct elections together with the assemblies (grima) for terms of four years. The assembly members have no authority to dismiss a mayor; however, the dismissal of a mayor is possible through a referendum. The referendum can be initiated by the consent of three-fifths of the MPs. In addition, the mayor can be dismissed by the Prime Minister in the case of gross violation of the law.
The research revealed that the mechanism of a mayor (governor) being dismissed by the city assembly or based upon a referendum does indeed exist in a number of Western states. Here as well, just as in the case of Georgia, there are no preconditions specified for proposing a vote of no-confidence against a mayor (governor) by the city assembly.Therefore, we conclude that Giorgi Margvelashvili’s statement: “The phenomenon of re-election [of a governor, mayor] exists in democratic systems; whether or not such a mechanism should exist in the Georgian legislation is another question,” is TRUE.