2014 Local Self-Government

First Interim Report

Even though it was expected that elaboration of the Local Self-Government Code and reforming of the Election Code would bring about fundamental changes in legislation, final outcomes of the reform fall short of the initial ambitious plans announced by the authorities. Notably, a number of recommendations set forth by the civil sector for introducing important new regulations were not taken into consideration in the process of the reform.  

We welcome the new regulations that introduce direct elections for Mayors and Gamgebelis, mandating absolute majority of votes – i.e. 50%+1 threshold; we also welcome regulations that establish 4% threshold for election of Sakrebulo members in a proportional elections.  

Another positive change is increasing of the number of self-governing cities up to twelve. Consequently, their Mayors will be elected in direct elections by absolute majority of votes. 

Notably, in order to encourage women participation in politics, parties that will choose to adhere to certain quotas prescribed by law will receive additional funding.  

In addition to the foregoing positive changes, a new regulation was also enacted allowing Sakrebulo to pass a motion of no-confidence against directly elected officials – Mayors and Gamgebelis, resulting in termination of their authority, considerably diminishing the importance of direct elections. 

A number of important issues were left outside the scope of the reform, including change of the election system. Despite a number of recommendations made, multi-mandate majoritarian districts were not set up. We believe that the existing system has been tailored to the interests of the political force currently in power, as the system fails to ensure that votes are proportionally reflected in the mandates, reducing the chances of small parties or independent candidates to be represented in Sakrebulos. The new regulations in the Election Code do not allow initiative groups to nominate candidacies for the offices of Mayors and Gamgebelis, stripping citizens, who are not willing to be associated with any of the political parties, off their constitutional right, in conflict with recommendations of international organizations. 

Regrettably, composition of election administration was also left outside the scope of the reform, even though it needs to be reformed in the shortest timeframe possible. 
ISFED believes that recent amendments to the Law on Public Service are unjustified and unconstitutional. In particular, pursuant to the amendments, civil servants employed at local self-government bodies, will be considered as interim public servants following the upcoming 2014 local elections until competitions are announced for filling the vacated positions. This means that thousands of municipal public servants will be dismissed in frames of the self-government reform and that the enactment of the new regulation will leave public servants with a sense of instability and a fear of losing job. This may encourage them to act in favor of the ruling party during the pre-election period. 
Regrettably, a comprehensive voter list remains to be a serious challenge for the 2014 local self-government elections. Notably, biometric lists have not been formed and highly credible voter list has not yet been elaborated.