The principle of equality in a democratic electoral system is one of the most important components and implies equality in summarizing the election results. Every vote is equal and leads to an equal result; thus every vote should have equal legal chance. This equality should be maintained in any kind of electoral system.

In a majoritarian system this means that constituencies should have approximately the same capacity in order to guarantee the equality of every voter. In the case of a proportional system, each vote should have an equal weight in the process of allocating the seats.

The principle of equality of election is a material implementation of the principle of equality of democracy; therefore it should be understood in the sense of formal equality. As a rule, this principle must be maintained and can only be excluded when it provides an additional advantage to constitutional values.

Basic international standards of electoral matters have been established by the Venice Commission (“Code of good practice in Electoral Matters”) by the OSCE (“Copenhagen Document”).

However, between these standards and the Georgian electoral system a discrepancy exists. There is a major disparity between the registered voters in the election districts and the mandates distributed in Parliament. This contradicts with the equal voting rights principles stipulated by both Georgian and international legislation. The number of voters between polling stations often exceeds 100 percent.

According to the regional and international monitoring election reports, the weight of votes during the majoritarian elections has deteriorated. This has been highlighted in the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring reports in which it is stressed that the Election Code contradicts with the equal voting principles. For instance, the Kazbegi district has 5,400 registered voters and Kutaisi has 116,000. However, both districts were represented by one mandate in Parliament. This undermines the equality of the vote.

According to the Venice Commission the mixed electoral system Georgia has opted for complies with international standards, however, there are no moderate size election districts which would guarantee the right of equal voting.

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Article 42 of the Constitution and Transparency International Georgia all expressed their position regarding these issues. According to these organizations, all candidates running under the majoritarian system which receive 30-35 percent of the population’s support can win a constitutional majority. That is, if an elected candidate at the same time brings forward all candidates running under a single-mandate district.

Recommendations

In order to ensure the right to equal voting, the OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission made similar recommendations when they stated electoral district boundaries should be drawn to avoid more than 10-15 percent variation in the election districts. As an alternative, the electoral system will provide general proportionality.

Despite the fact that the Georgian government made a pledge to delaminate the electoral district boundaries, to date no changes have been made. OSCE/ODIHR repeated that the Georgian government should address the issues related to a disparity of the population size in single-mandate constituencies before the next parliamentary elections.

ISFED also made recommendations on similar matters when it urged the Georgian government to review the electoral system and safeguard the right to equal voting.

Even though there is a growing tendency and political will to make electoral matters a wide object of discussion, it is substantially overlooked. The latest experience shows that the government fails to take into account any of these recommendations made by international and local non-governmental organizations which point out the non-existing will of the government to reform the electoral system in cooperation with civil society and political parties.