Assessment of the 2021 Electoral Reform
The ongoing political processes started after the October 31, 2020 parliamentary elections, especially the disagreement between the ruling party and the opposition on fundamental issues, have put the country in a state of a serious crisis. Representatives of the opposition parties, which overcame the threshold in the parliamentary elections, expressed distrust in the elections by refusing to accept the mandates, while the Citizens Party started its parliamentary activities on the condition of changing the issues reflected in the memorandum with the Georgian Dream. Among other topics, the memorandum covered the problems related to the self-government electoral system, the formation of the election administration, and election disputes.
In early February 2021, the Working Group on Electoral Reform, set up as a result of the signing of the memorandum, resumed its work in Parliament. Representatives of international and local observer organizations participated in the group meetings, however, due to the boycott of the opposition parties, the group continued to work without their involvement, which affected the inclusiveness of the process.
In parallel with the electoral reform process, on February 23, the Georgian government began the process of enforcing the decision made by the Tbilisi City Court against the chairman of the United National Movement, Nika Melia. In the course of the pretrial detention measure, law enforcement officials detained Nika Melia using disproportionate force, which increased the risks of hampering the ongoing political dialogue and democratic process. The decision of the government once again revealed the lack of constructive political will in the process of managing the current political crisis, which also had a negative impact on the ongoing electoral reform. Active steps have been taken by the country's international partners to resolve the crisis and resume political dialogue. Charles Michel - the President of the European Council paid a visit to Georgia, on 28 February. He developed a six-point action plan based on the dialogue with local stakeholders, one part of which deals with electoral reform. The current mediator in the ongoing negotiations is President Michel's special envoy, Christian Danielsson.
It is noteworthy that in order to correct the shortcomings in the electoral legislation and practice, the electoral reform process started in June 2019, mainly to reflect the recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), provided after the 2018 presidential elections. Although the working group formation process was more or less inclusive and transparent, no agreement was reached on fundamental issues such as reviewing the rules for forming the election administration, regulating social media campaigning, and resolving election disputes.
This document provides the joint assessments and recommendations of ISFED and Transparency International Georgia regarding the amendments to the Election Code, based on the memorandum signed between the political party Georgian Dream and Citizens. We also considered it necessary to present opinions in order to improve the electoral legislation and practice and address the problems that have had a negative impact on an equal and free electoral environment throughout the election cycle. The discussion space opened by the electoral reform provides an opportunity for the public to draw attention to issues that are not addressed in the proposed legislative changes but are crucial in terms of improving the electoral environment in the country and increasing the credibility of the election results.