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On 6 June 2015, it was reported that the existing mixed electoral system would not be abolished at the present time. Hence, the 2016 Parliamentary elections will still be held using the proportional and majoritarian electoral systems.

Whilst discussing this topic, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, reminded the government and the Georgian people that it was a pre-election promise of the Georgian Dream coalition to change the majoritarian electoral system. According to Mr Margvelashvili’s statement, the Georgian Dream coalition’s pre-election document explicitly said that the majoritarian electoral system should be replaced by a fairer one.

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of the President’s statement.

According to the Government of Georgia’s statement, the majoritarian electoral system will be abolished by 2020 whilst the 2016 elections will still be held using the proportional and majoritarian electoral systems. However, it should be noted that on the Parliamentary Majority’s initiative, the barrier for winning in the majoritarian constituency will go up from 30% to 50%. Additionally, majoritarian constituencies will be re-formed to maintain the equality of the votes.

A constitutional majority is not needed for the adoption of these changes. The short amount of time left before the elections was given as the reason for postponing the electoral system’s basic reform. It should be pointed out that political parties making up the Georgian Dream coalition in the period from 2010 to 2012 actively supported the abolition of the majoritarian electoral system which is being proposed by non-governmental organisations and political parties today. Specifically, the National Forum, Conservatives and Republicans were part of the so-called Opposition Eight in terms of which eight opposition political parties proposed the same model to the United National Movement which some of them refuse to adopt today.

On 31 August 2015, the Georgian Dream coalition made another statement about the changes in the electoral system, saying that the 2016 Parliamentary elections will still be held using the mixed electoral system. However, the barrier necessary for winning a majoritarian constituency has been increased and the constituencies will be re-formed to ensure a fair distribution of votes. The same statement says that elections after 2016 will be held using the proportional system only. In addition, the coalition will immediately initiate a constitutional bill which must be adopted by the Parliament of Georgia in the upcoming months. According to the constitutional bill, elections following the 2016 Parliamentary elections will be held using the proportional system and multiple mandate constituencies. The coalition is ready to consult with the Parliamentary Minority in order to ensure the adoption of the changes.

The Georgian Dream coalition itself talked about the unfairness of the existing electoral system before the 2012 Parliamentary elections. The pre-election programme of the coalition reads: "An almost one-party Parliament is functioning in Georgia and it is an obedient executor of the wishes of a small ruling elite. One of the main reasons for this is an unfair electoral system."

Several non-governmental organisations and opposition political parties presented two alternative models to the existing electoral system, both of which proposed the abolition of the majoritarian electoral system. Non-governmental organisations (Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia, Fair Elections and so on) also demanded the creation of a joint commission with the Government of Georgia in order to ensure the adoption of the changes. On 30 May 2015, during a meeting with the President of Georgia, eight non-governmental organisations and 14 political parties signed a document according to which the existing electoral system needs to be changed. During this meeting, Giorgi Margvelashvili stated that it was a pre-election promise of the Georgian Dream coalition to change the electoral system. He also said that every political party agrees that the existing electoral system must be changed.

The non-governmental organisations and the majority of political parties (except the Georgian Dream coalition) agree that an outright or partial abolition of the majoritarian system is necessary. For example, the non-governmental organisations demand the transfer to a full proportional system whilst the non-parliamentary opposition parties support a mixed system according to which 100 parliamentary mandates will be voted for using the general proportional system, meaning nation-wide, whilst the remaining 50 mandates will be voted for using the regional-proportional system. According to this system, Georgia will be divided into 11 constituencies, instead of 73 as is the case today. Both the non-governmental organisations and the non-parliamentary opposition confirm that the systems proposed by them are not final and it is possible to agree upon a common approach.

It is important to note that according to Majoritarian MP Vakhtang Khmaladze’s statement, the abolition of the majoritarian electoral system was indeed a pre-election promise of the Georgian Dream coalition but the coalition does not currently possess the necessary parliamentary mandate (113 parliamentary votes are necessary for the abolition of the majoritarian system) to fulfil this promise. However, the Parliamentary Minority parties have also committed themselves to the memorandum signed by the non-governmental organisations and the non-parliamentary opposition aiming to reform the electoral system. This means that the problem of gathering enough votes for the changes is in the Parliamentary Majority instead of the Minority. According to Mr Khmaladze’s statement, the problematic issue will be getting the support of the Majoritarian MPs who may not want to abolish the rule which put them in the Parliament in the first place. Mr Khmaladze himself, who is a Majoritarian MP, supports the abolition of the system as does the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Davit Usupashvili, who joined the aforementioned memorandum. On 17 March 2015, after his meeting with the signatory parties of the memorandum, Davit Usupashvili stated that he shares the belief that a further reform of the electoral system, based upon the aforementioned principles, is necessary.

On 2 September 2015, Fair Elections published an address which reads: "The coalition’s statement says that the proposed reform is a part of its pre-election promises. However, the Parliament of Georgia was already tasked by the Constitutional Court of Georgia to review the borders of the majoritarian constituencies and maintain equality between them. Neither the aforementioned changes, nor the 50% barrier proposed for the majoritarian elections, can provide a fundamental reform and the imposition of an actually fair and equal electoral environment in the country."

The OSCE and the EU have also called

upon Georgia to change the existing electoral system. For example, the document assessing the implementation of the EU Neighbourhood Policy reads: "It is necessary to eliminate the flaws in the existing election laws and the election administration system, as pointed out by the OSCE/ODIHR, before starting the new cycle of the 2016 Parliamentary elections" (page 3). The same document says that the reform of the electoral system was not started on 25 March 2015. It should also be noted that both parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties (except the Alliance of Georgian Patriots) are boycotting the intermediate elections to be held in October 2015 because of the non-fulfilment of the electoral system reform promise by the Government of Georgia.

Conclusion

Changing the "unfair" electoral system was indeed among the pre-election promises of the Georgian Dream coalition. In addition, on 17 March 2015, Davit Usupashvili signed the memorandum, saying that the existing electoral system is unfair and the majoritarian system needs to be changed. It is also important to note Majoritarian MP Vakhtang Khmaladze’s statement in which he said that the abolition of the majoritarian electoral system was indeed a pre-election promise of the Georgian Dream coalition and that he supports this idea. However, at the same time he speaks about the inadequate number of mandates which prevents the coalition from abolishing the system.

In addition, the coalition plans to initiate a constitutional bill which must be adopted by the Parliament of Georgia in the upcoming months. According to the bill, elections following the 2016 Parliamentary elections will be held using the proportional system and multiple mandate constituencies. It is unclear how the coalition plans to get votes for constitutional amendments when it says that it has none of the necessary votes to abolish the majoritarian electoral system by 2016.

Non-governmental organisations and opposition political parties agree that an outright or partial abolition of the majoritarian system is necessary before the 2016 elections. The ruling party itself is against a fundamental reform at this stage and hence it refuses to fulfil its pre-election promise.

FactCheck concludes that the President’s statement is TRUE.