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Lack of Clarity over Direct Elections of ‘All Mayors’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 5 Oct.'09 / 18:30

Despite President Saakashvili’s announcement at the UN General Assembly that the authorities had “committed to the direct election of all mayors”, the ruling party so far gave its firm go-ahead to the direct election of only Tbilisi mayor.
 
While one senior lawmaker from the ruling party said the issue of direct elections of mayors in towns, except of Tbilisi, had not been discussed within the party, another one said discussions were still ongoing on the matter among the party officials, but no final discussion had yet been made.

Under the current legislature, mayor of Tbilisi and four other major cities – Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti – are elected by the elected local City Councils (Sakrebulos) and not directly by voters.

Few days before the launch of street protest rallies by a group of opposition parties on April 9, the authorities offered the opposition to change the rule and to directly elect mayor of the capital city, while leaving the current rule unchanged in respect of four other cities.

During his address to the Parliament on July 20, President Saakashvili reiterated pledge on direct election of Tbilisi mayor and also offered to hold local elections on May 30, 2010, instead of originally planned late next year.

On September 24 in his address to UN General Assembly, President Saakashvili went further in his proposals on the matter and said that “all mayors” would be elected directly “in few months time.”

MP Pavle Kublashvili of the ruling party, who chairs the parliamentary committee for legal issues, however, told Civil.Ge on October 5, that no such proposal in respect of other cities “have not been discussed and is not being discussed” within the party.

Asked about the President’s announcement, MP Kublashvili said: “I am not aware of such initiative that all mayors would be directly elected.”

“One thing I know is that Tbilisi mayor will be directly elected and a relevant legislative basis will be prepared,” MP Kublashvili added.

Another senior lawmaker from the ruling party, Akaki Minashvili, who chairs the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, however, told Civil.Ge on October 5 that while decision was already made on Tbilisi, the issue of other cities was “still being discussed within the group” – referring to the ruling party.

MP Minashvili, who also is the ruling party’s representative in the inter-party working group on electoral reform, said that there were differences within the ruling party on the rule of electing mayor of even Tbilisi. “But eventually the agreement has been reached that Tbilisi mayor will be elected directly,” he added.

MP Mikheil Machavariani, the parliament’s vice-speaker, was among those within the ruling party, who was against of the direct election of mayor, citing that such rule “politicizes” the mayoral office.

Asked about the President’s announcement about direct elections of all mayors, MP Machavariani told Civil.Ge on October 5: “I do not support it.”

“The President might said it in plural [“all mayors”] and the President’s order means that discussions will take place on this matter. Tbilisi is already decided, but as far as other cities are concerned I do not support this statement,” MP Machavariani said. “My position is - less politicization and more deeds when it comes to the mayoral office.” he said. “I plan to speak about my position if the ruling party decides to hold a meeting on this matter.”

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