Constituency boundaries have been re-drawn ahead of the parliamentary elections, and research by the Caucasus Research Resource Centre has found that the re-sizing of the constituencies may give the Georgian Dream an advantage in the upcoming elections.
The boundaries were re-drawn so as to create constituencies more equal in size. Until now, the smallest single-member district had 5,000 registered voters, whilst the largest had over 150,000. The newly implemented boundary changes have created districts which have on average 48,000 voters and are more in line with international standards on voting equality.
Twelve districts were added in the capital, Tbilisi, bringing the total number of constituencies in the city up to 22. Elsewhere, smaller districts such as Kazbegi, Dusheti and Tianeti have been merged.
A pre-analysis report on electoral statistics by the Caucasus Research Resource Center has found that, “There are a number of characteristics of the new electoral districts which may provide political advantage to the incumbent party”.
The report says that the Georgian Dream would have won 50 seats in the 2012 elections if the revised boundaries had been in force, as opposed to the 41 they claimed in reality. Conversely the United National Movement (UNM) would have won only 23 majoritarian mandates out of 32 they actually won.
The Caucasus Research Resource Centre report highlighted the fact that according to the initial redistricting proposal, the 55th Samtredia district should have been split into two and these parts were to be merged with the bordering Vani and Khoni districts. Instead however, the two smaller districts of Vani and Khoni were merged together, despite the fact that they do not share a border. The report notes that based on the previous election results, the merging of the Vani and Khoni districts could potentially give the Georgian Dream an electoral advantage.
Previously, the opposition parties namely the UNM have accused the Georgian Dream of gerrymandering the districts in order to win more seats. 42 Members of the Parliament from the opposition challenged the redistricting in the Constitutional Court -- arguing that the merging of two districts which did not share borders was an example of gerrymandering. On July 20, the Constitutional Court did not uphold the claim. Another claim by the complainants also did not stand, that the CEC is not authorized to redraw the borders of certain districts. The Constitutional Court declared that the CEC’s right to redraw electoral borders does not contradict the constitution. The issue of redistricting, however, was raised by the Venice Commission in a March 2016 report: It said that the changes in electoral redistricting are do not specify the methods of establishing constituencies. The Commission also pointed out that the amendments were adopted without the involvement of relevant stakeholders during the drafting process.
Georgia has a mixed electoral system. Seventy-three members of the 150 seat parliament are elected in single-member constituencies, know in Georgia as Majoritarian MPs. Majoritarian candidates need to win more than 50% of vote share in order to win, otherwise a second round of voting is held.