08TBILISI2417, GEORGIA: ELECTION CODE REFORM BACK AGAIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2417 2008-12-18 09:40 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9404
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2417 3530940
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 180940Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0592
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 002417 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: ELECTION CODE REFORM BACK AGAIN 
 
REF: 07 TBILISI 1477 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  Speaker Bakradze announced 
December 15 the formation of a special group of lawmakers 
from the Parliamentary majority and minority, NGO 
representatives, and non-Parliamentary opposition to improve 
the election code.  It is generally agreed that the current 
code is flawed and has been a source of much criticism from 
both the opposition and NGO and international community. 
This move represents a positive step and concrete effort to 
bring the various stakeholders together to form some sort of 
consensus, although the Georgians have been down this road 
before (reftel).  Thus far, all non-Parliamentary opposition 
parties except the Industrialists have said they will not 
take part in the group unless the Government also agrees to 
call new parliamentary elections for the spring.  Although 
the election reform group would be an excellent forum for 
non-Parliamentary parties to engage the GOG, their rejection 
of the offer calls into doubt their oft cited desire to be 
included in policy discussions.  Putting conditions on 
participation, especially following repeated demands to be 
included in such discussions, raises the question of whether 
the non-Parliamentary opposition is committed to electoral 
reform or simply wants another crack at elections.  End 
Summary and Comment. 
 
2.  (U)  Speaker Bakradze made the offer for all interested 
parties to participate in reforming the electoral code at a 
December 15 press conference.  Bakradze said that he expected 
the work to be finished by Spring 2009 when it would be 
reviewed by international specialists for 
comments/recommendations.  The code could then be adopted by 
Parliament in time for local elections, currently scheduled 
for autumn 2010.  Bakradze said it would be up to the group 
to decide whether to develop an entirely new code or simply 
amend the existing one.  ODIHR has criticized the election 
code for "creating an unequal playing field in favor of the 
ruling party", although it labeled the code as "generally 
conducive to conducting democratic elections." 
 
3.  (U)  A ey criticism of the code is the provision for the 
election of the 75 majoritarian MPs in single mandate 
constituencies (Note:  The remaining 75 seats are distributed 
among lawmakers elected through a traditional party-list 
proportional system.  End Note.).  In the majoritarian 
districts, any candidate that wins with more than 30% of the 
total vote does not need to face a runoff.  This system, in 
light of the opposition's fragmentation, resulted in the 
United National Movement (UNM) winning outright 71 of these 
75 seats.  Also, district sizes are extremely uneven in size, 
ranging from 6,000 to 140,000 constituents which distorts the 
relative level of Parliamentary representation among 
districts.  Both of these provisions are likely to be 
discarded or changed. 
 
4.  (C)  Speaker Bakradze told us he was hopeful agreement 
could be reached rather quickly on a new election code.  He 
said he had reached out to the non-Parliamentary opposition, 
but thus far only the Industrialists accepted his offer. 
Labor, New Rights/Republicans, and Conservatives had all 
refused to participate except via the NGO community, unless 
the Government also committed to calling new pre-term 
elections, something Bakradze categorically stated would not 
happen.  Bakradze alleged that former Speaker Burjandze, 
Gamkrelidze, and others simply want another shot at 
Parliament and hope that public pressure would push the GOG 
to comply.  Bakradze said that the electoral code working 
Qto comply.  Bakradze said that the electoral code working 
group will move on with or without non-parliamentary 
opposition participation. 
TEFFT

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