Majoritarian component of the 2016 parliamentary elections was held in electoral districts established on the basis of equal distribution. Therefore, improvement and facilitation of communication between constituents and majoritarian members of the parliament require making of corresponding changes in rules for determination of a location of bureaus of majoritarian MPs and for funding.
Under the applicable legislation, bureaus of majoritarian MP operated in all municipalities because municipal borders coincided with borders of majoritarian electoral districts. Currently, borders of electoral districts established on the basis of equal distribution no longer coincide with municipal borders and in a number of instances, several municipalities have a single majoritarian MP, while in other instances a single self-governing entity is divided into several majoritarian districts and is represented by more than one majoritarian MPs in the parliament. For instance, Oni, Ambrolauri, Tsageri, Mestia and Lentekhi vote for a single majoritarian candidate, while in the previous parliament each of these districts had one majoritarian MP and a bureau of their majoritarian MP. On the other hand, Batumi District, which used to have a single MP, elected 3 majoritarian MPs in the recent parliamentary elections.
Considering the existing new reality, to ensure effective communication between constituents and their MPs, it is important to introduce new budgeting regulations for setting up local representative offices (bureaus) of majoritarian MPs, for performance of MPs and their funding, with the aim of ensuring effective communication between constituents and their elected representatives and reasonable use of funds.
Existing concept of the relationship of majoritarian MPs with their constituents was largely flawed and failed to ensure effective communication between the two. ISFED’s report about the performance of MPs elected through the majoritarian voting system in the 8th Parliament of Georgia identified a number of flaws in this regard. Addressing these flaws will improve communication between majoritarian MPs and their constituents:
1. Minimum and maximum number of bureau employees is not defined by law:
Work of employees of a bureau of majoritarian MP is regulated by the Regulations for Determining the Functions, the Rules of Organization and Activity of the Bureau of MP Elected through Majoritarian Voting System, and [for determining] Rules for Spending Funds Allocated from the Budget of the Parliament for the Bureau adopted by the Decision no.29/3 of the Bureau of the Parliament of Georgia. According to the Regulations, bureau employees ensure organization of the bureau’s work and support its activities. Bureau employees are nominated by the majoritarian MP concerned and appointed by the Chief of the Office of the Parliament for the length of the MP’s term.
In the 8th Parliament of Georgia, a number of bureau employees often varied across bureaus, as there was no uniform practice or a legal standard to adhere to. A number of employees did not depend on a number of constituents in a majoritarian district concerned or on any other characteristics of the district. The number of employees was determined by majoritarian MPs, as they saw it fit.
Recommendation: The law should define the number of bureau employees depending on the number of constituents in the electoral district concerned or other relevant criteria.
2. There are no official criteria or rules for selection of employees or principles for providing remuneration to bureau employees. Salary fund and remuneration differed across bureaus.
Recommendation: The law should establish criteria and procedures for selection of bureau employees and define their salary scale.
3. Standards of communication between majoritarian MPs and constituents are not defined.
Georgian legislation regulates obligations of majoritarian MPs before constituents. Most important obligations include meeting with constituents and addressing their problems.
Since citizens address majoritarian MPs mostly about issues that fall under the purview of other state authorities, bureaus refer their requests to relevant bodies for consideration.
There is a special page about the performance of majoritarian MPs on the official website of the Parliament of Georgia. However, it does not provide locations of bureaus of majoritarian MPs, their office hours (date and time), a number of bills initiated by majoritarian MPs, information about majoritarian districts and other important details. The above information is not available or relevant sections are under construction, which means that Georgian majoritarian MPs fail to provide information proactively to constituents about their parliamentary work and performance.
The law does not define the practice of registration of requests of citizens (verbal or written requests) by bureaus. In addition, bureaus refer most of the requests to local self-governments and relevant ministries. However, there are no standards that define which type of requests should be responded and how.
Recommendation: the law should define a unified format for registration of requests of citizens. Mechanisms for initiating administrative proceedings in response to each individual request must be introduced. Because citizens often address their majoritarian MPs about issues that fall under the scope of other agencies’ competencies, a strategy should be developed that will define which types of requests are referred to relevant agencies, and interim (referring a request to relevant authorities) and final (decision made by relevant authorities) measures taken in response to the problem/issue concerned must be recorded.
Location of bureaus
The new way of delimitation of majoritarian districts brings about the need to review the geographic location of majoritarian MP bureaus. Clearly, it is a comprehensive issue that requires consideration of all factors that positively affect communication between constituents and majoritarian MPs.
This challenge affects districts combined into a single district as well as self-governing entities divided into several majoritarian districts.
To resolve the issue, new rules for the provision of funding for the bureaus need to be introduced, in compliance with majoritarian district borders defined in Article 1101 of the Election Code. Under the applicable legislation, a lump-sum payment of GEL 5,000 is made from the Budget of the Parliament for material and technical support of each bureau. The funding is used to purchase material and technical supplies for the bureaus. In addition, each bureau receives GEL 5,000 on a monthly basis. This approach needs to be revised in consideration of the fact that different majoritarian MPs face different challenges.
Rules about how bureaus are set up and how they operate in combined districts need to be defined.
• Bureau of majoritarian MP within borders of a combined electoral district
In combined municipalities, bureau of majoritarian MP must be set up and located on the territory of the main district and in each of the auxiliary districts majoritarian MP should have a single representative who will serve as an intermediary between the bureau and constituents. He or she will provide the bureau with appeals and applications of individual citizens on a periodic basis and in a pre-determined form. The bureau will then initiate administrative proceedings to respond to the appeal/application.
The representative will organize meetings for the majoritarian MP, inform voters and more.
For instance: bureau of the majoritarian MP of Oni-Amrbolauri-Tsageri-Lentekhi-Mestia (office space with several employees) will be located in Ambrolauri (main district), and the MP will have representatives in Oni, Ambrolauri, Tsageri and Lentekhi, one in each district.
The above solution will also be cost-effective, as it will save costs for renting an office space in four districts and other office expenses.
• Bureau in a municipality with more than one majoritarian MP
There is no need to have separate bureaus for majoritarian MPs in a municipality with more than one majoritarian district. We propose having a representative office of majoritarian MPs (the parliament) and employees of the office will ensure coordination of activities of two or more MPs and their communication with voters.
For instance, Batumi municipality has three majoritarian representatives in the parliament. Instead of having three different bureaus in Batumi we recommend having a single bureau that will support activities of all three majoritarian MPs in communicating with voters.