Changes in the Election Administration and its Potential Impact on the Upcoming Local Self-Government Elections in Georgia
Potential Impact of Electoral Changes on the Upcoming Local Elections in Georgia
Considering existing concerns around the selection process, it is most probable that the candidates for CEC chairperson will not be supported by the parliamentary opposition parties. In that case, the ruling party will not be able to appoint the selected candidate with the 2/3 majority and as indicated in the April 19 Agreement, if elected by a majority of less than 2/3, the new CEC Chair will hold the post for only 6 months. The so-called “capping” mechanism ensures that the candidate, who is not supported by the majority of the involved parties, holds the post only temporarily, for 6 months and at first glance, that mechanism seems to positively affect the level of public trust towards the elections. However, appointment of the CEC chairperson approved by the ruling party even for 6 months requires special attention considering the context. Georgia will hold the local self-government elections this October. The upcoming elections are of crucial importance for the ruling party, since according to the April 19 Agreement, snap parliamentary elections shall be called if the Georgian Dream party receives less than 43% of proportional votes in the local self-government elections. It is evident that the ruling party will attempt to use the aforementioned 6 months time in order to exert political influence over the upcoming local elections.
The potential consequences of the electoral reform resulting in the “old administration in a new form” need to be further discussed in an institutional context that exists in Georgia right before the 2021 local self-government elections. The 2020 parliamentary elections were recognized as legitimate by the international community based on the conclusion that “it was competitive and, overall, fundamental freedoms were respected”. However, the political crisis in Georgia was to some extent caused by the fact that the politically motivated court left most of the election complaints filed by the opposition parties and NGOs without consideration. Despite the fact that the April 19 Agreement also envisaged judicial reform, it is evident that the Georgian government has been regressing in that direction and it has failed to carry out any positive changes so far. The OSCE interim report as well as the statement by the United States Department of State criticize the Georgian government over the appointment of judges to the country’s Supreme Court. According to them, the process was rushed and non-transparent and it took place before the implementation of the agreed upon judicial reforms.
It is evident that civil society and opposition party representatives will not have a better opportunity to use legal leverages and file complaints in common courts concerning election results in the significant upcoming elections in October. Considering that, appointing an untrustworthy candidate as a CEC chairperson will most likely further reduce the public’s trust towards election results. Also, taking these recent developments into account, all of the aforementioned will probably lead the country to an even bigger political standoff.