The existing electoral system fails to ensure that votes are translated into seats in a proportionate manner1 – fact that no one is disputing anymore. Rather, the principle of equality of suffrage is violated2 and the number of wasted votes is high3.
Therefore, on June 2, 2015 following lengthy discussions and public debates eight non-governmental organizations and 15 political parties joined to unanimously called the legislators to abolish majoritarian part of the electoral system4. Instead, we proposed a system in which 75 MPs will be elected through proportional representation voting system, while 75 MPs will be elected through regional proportional system of voting. Regional proportional voting system requires setting up of multi-member districts.
Number of mandates for each multi-member district will depend on the size of constituency. By ensuring that votes are translated into the number of seats in proportionate manner and by protecting the principle of equality of suffrage, the number of wasted votes will be decreased to the minimum, which will in turn create an opportunity to form meaningful multi-member districts.
The necessity of the reform is further reinforced by the position of the ruling coalition, which has offered holding of elections through proportionate system for 2020 elections, despite the fact that it is absolutely feasible to make relevant Constitutional changes to adopt the proportional representation voting system before the upcoming 2016 parliamentary elections.
Notably, today’s proposal of civil society organizations and political parties to abolish the majoritarian voting system was actively supported by members of the now-ruling coalition in 2010-2012. Specifically, the National Forum, the Conservatives, and the Republicans were part of the eight opposition parties5 that proposed the very same model to the ruling United National Movement party, which they are now refusing to adopt6. Another member of today’s ruling coalition – Industry Will Save Georgia – was also involved in works to elaborate a new blueprint for electoral reform. The eight opposition parties proposed the following: election of 75 out of 150 members of parliament through the unified proportionate system and election of remaining 75 members of parliament through regional-proportionate voting system, with 5% threshold for representation for both systems. In place of single-mandate district, number of mandates in regions would be determined according to the size of constituency. The proposal was unveiled by leaders of the opposition party during a press-conference on October 4, 2010.
However, after a few months, following several working meetings with then-ruling United National Party that categorically opposed to changes in the system, the eight opposition parties unveiled a new proposal of two alternative models of the electoral system: in the first model, 75 out of 150 members of parliament would be elected in single-mandate district on one condition: majoritarian seats gained by a party should have been equal or less than seats that it gained in proportionate elections. Threshold for winning majoritarian candidates would increase from 30 to 50%. Another half of the parliamentary seats would be filled through proportional voting list. Based on the proposal, percentage of votes gained by a party in proportional voting system was to determine its total number of majoritarian and party mandates7. In second model of the electoral system, 2/3 of MPs would be elected in a proportionate system, while 1/3 would be elected in single-mandate majoritarian electoral districts with 50% threshold. Consequently, boundaries for majoritarian electoral districts needed to be redrawn8.
However, due to the UNM’s refusal to abolish the majoritarian system, the electoral system was never changed.
UNM now supports current proposal and has joined the call to the parliament, while four parties from the coalition Georgian Dream – the National Forum, the Conservatives, the Republicans and the Industrialists – who actively advocated for the abolishment of majoritarian electoral system before 2012, now support majoritarian electoral system for the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Clearly, the existing electoral system works at to advantage of the ruling political force. However, we remain hopeful that having meaningfully competitive and fair electoral system, an integral part of the process of building democratic state, will take precedence over narrow political interests.
1. In 2008 parliamentary elections the ruling
party gained 59% of votes; however, it gained 80% of votes through majoritarian
2. 6000 voters in Kazbegi vote for a single
majoritarian MP, and so do over 163 000 voters in Kutaisi, while based on
international standards, maximum threshold for difference in size of constituency
3. For instance, a mandate can be won by a
candidate who is supported by 31% of voters, while in theory, total number of
voters who voted against he candidate can be as high as 69%.
5. The so-called eight parties of the opposition
included the following parties: the National Forum, the Conservatives, the
Republicans, Our Georgia – Free Democrats, Georgian Way, New Rights,
Christian-Democratic Movement and People’s Party.
7. If the number of seats won by a party through
majoritarian voting system exceeded the number of votes it won through
proportionate voting system, the number of former seats would be decreased.