The by-elections planned in Senaki municipality should be canceled and extraordinary elections of the City Council should be called.
On August 12, 2022, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia scheduled a by-elections to elect a vacant member of the Senaki City Council, since the City Council’s elected member from the "United National Movement" left the Council at the end of May. According to the ordinance of the CEC, the election in the local majoritarian electoral district No. 64.04 should be held at three polling stations.
ISFED believes that by-elections do not address the existing challenges and are not aimed to solve the systemic crisis in the Senaki city council. According to the legislation, the Government of Georgia should make a decision of introducing direct state governance in the Senaki City Council, and the President and the Prime Minister should schedule the extraordinary elections in a short time frame.
As a result of the 2021 municipal elections, in the 33-member Senaki City Council, 16 mandates belonged to "Georgian Dream", 13 - to "United National Movement", and 4 - "For Georgia". Accordingly, Senaki was one of the municipalities, where opposition owned the majority. Based on the observation of ISFED, a number of problems have been revealed after the recognition of power of the City council. In particular, due to the withdrawal of the member elected by the proportional list of the party "For Georgia", the ruling party and the opposition side turned out to have equal 16-16 mandates. In case of authorization of replacement of the member who left the council, which should have happened at the council meeting, the majority would still be on the side of the opposition, which is why "Georgian Dream" announced an actual boycott and refused to participate in the sessions. Without the members of the ruling party, the necessary quorum for holding the session could not be formed. As a result, a crisis was created and the City council was paralyzed.
Amendments to the Election Code entered into force in May 2022, according to which the decision of the City Council is no longer required to confirm the authority of the substitute member of the City Council. In particular, according to Section 4 of Article 135 of the Election Code, "the authorization of a member of the City Council replacing the removed member of the Council elected by proportional system begins on the 14th day after the issuance of the appropriate legal act by the chairman of the relevant election commission, which is notified to the relevant City Council.” Thus, the opposition had another chance to gather a majority with 17 mandates. However, at the end of May, the member from the "United National Movement" left the council, which the party attributes to pressure, and the opposition side still happened to have 16 mandates.
After December 17, up to 10 sessions of the City Council were canceled due to lack of quorum. There was a dispute in Senaki city court about the legality of decisions, made during February 19-23, at the sessions, held by the opposition in the absence of a quorum. On August 18, 2022, the court recognized the decisions made by the City Council on February 19-23 as illegal.
According to Article 142 of the Local Self-Government Code, the authority of the City Council is prematurely terminated if it fails to meet for 6 consecutive months, which is the legal basis for the introduction of direct state governance. The government takes a decision on this matter, after which state governance is temporarily exercised by a trustee appointed by the government, a collegial body, or an official authorized body determined in accordance with the law. Direct state governance is implemented during the transition period, and continues until the powers of the municipal bodies elected as a result of extraordinary elections are known.
According to Article 1541 of the Election Code, when the powers of the City Council are terminated before the deadline, extraordinary elections are held. If the authority of the City Council was terminated from January 15 to June 15, extraordinary elections are held in October of the same year, and if the authority of the City Council was terminated from June 15 to January 15 - in the nearest April. Elections are appointed by the President with the co-signature of the Prime Minister.
ISFED believes that since December 17 is the date of holding the last authorized session of the City Council, therefore, on June 17, the 6-month period expired, within which, according to the "Local Self-Government Code", the City Council should have convened and held at least one session. According to the same code, failure of the City Council to meet within 6 months is an unconditional basis for termination of its powers. In accordance with the Election Code, extraordinary elections of the City Council should be held in April 2023.
Based on all of the above, ISFED calls to:
- The Government of Georgia, in accordance with the local self-government and election codes, to issue an decree on the early termination of the power of the City Council as soon as possible and also make a decision on the introduction of direct state governance;
- The President of Georgia, together with the Prime Minister, to discuss and appoint the extraordinary elections of the Senaki City Council;
- The Central Election Commission, due to the change in the factual and legal grounds, which makes the October by-elections meaningless, should make a decision on its cancellation.
 Decree of the CEC No. 153/2022 "On the appointment of the mid-term elections of the representative body of the municipality - the Sakrebulo of the October 2, 2021 elections of the self-governing community - Senaki Municipality Sakrebulo to be held using the majoritarian electoral system" - - shorturl.at/hlOPS