President Saakashvili said on December 5 that a 50% threshold for electing Tbilisi mayor could have helped a candidate to win the post through, what he called, “hate votes”.
Parliament approved on December 4 with the first reading a rule of electing Tbilisi mayor setting a 30% threshold. The rule reduces opposition candidates’ chances for wining the mayoral race. If there are several opposition candidates competing with each other, as well as with incumbent mayor and Saakashvili’s ally Gigi Ugulava, the overall opposition votes will be split and the ruling party candidate will likely garner more than others and more than 30% of votes avoiding runoff.
“If a candidate fails to garner more votes than others and hopes to get more support in the second round by telling voters: ‘although we do not like each other, let’s get together and get united to defeat [a candidate who garnered most votes in the first round] with hate votes’, then let’s think about what can a candidate, who wins through hate votes, create?” Saakashvili said.
He said that he was against of having any threshold at all, but setting of a 30% was necessary as part of a compromise from the ruling party.
Saakashvili also said he had “lot’s of doubts” about appropriateness of direct election of Tbilisi mayor as well. He said that for those who viewed Tbilisi mayoral post as a starting point for then gaining more political power in the government, such mayor, he said, would fail to tackle the capital city’s communal issues, suggesting that the post was not a political one.
“It was a controversial issue, but anyway agreed on [having a directly elected mayor], because we thought maximum of consensus was required including with the most radical [opposition] political groups,” Saakashvili said.
The rule of direct election of mayor will only apply to the capital city, despite a pledge by President Saakashvili, made in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, that “all mayors” in other four major cities – Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti would be elected through direct elections as well.
Saakashvili also said on December 5, that “a broad agreement”, which he said was achieved between the political parties on election system, “is a huge achievement for the Georgian democracy”.
“Even those [political groups] who say that they disagree with principles, which are currently discussed in the Parliament, are very much willing to participate in the elections; if the system is so bad then why do they run in the elections?” he said.