TBILISI, DFWatch–Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili proposes to raise the threshold for winning in the first round of local elections to 50 percent.
Gharibashvili, who represents the Georgian Dream coalition, suggests having a 50 percent threshold also in mayoral elections.
He further proposes electing gamgebelis, who are heads of local governments, with a 50 percent threshold. According to his press office, the PM has agreed with the coalition about this proposal.
Internationally, the most common threshold for winning the first round of first past the post elections is fifty percent, which gives a chance for the number two parties to mobilize supporters from other parts of the political spectrum in a second round.
While Saakashvili was in power, however, the threshold was set much lower. Pressure groups and the opposition wanted a 50 percent threshold in local elections, but the National Movement never agreed to this. As the largest party, they benefited from a lower threshold, which favors the number one party.
In the last local election, in 2010, there was for the first time direct election of Tbilisi mayor. This was heralded as a step forward toward democracy, but the threshold for winning in the first round was only 30 percent.
When the Georgian Dream came into government in late 2012, the coalition introduced new rules for direct election of mayors in twelve other cities, with a 40 percent threshold for winning without a run-off, while the barrier for gamgebelis was set at 33 percent.
Saakashvili’s National Movement party, now out of office, has changed its position and is demanding a 50 percent threshold for mayors and gamgebelis. Their argument is that such officials should not be elected by a minority.
A bill will be presented in parliament to amend relevant legislation. Georgia will hold local elections sometime in June, 2014.