The high level of the legal threshold (7%) (Article 105.7) has not been lowered despite being sharply criticised by international organisations. It goes without saying that setting a threshold of exclusion is always a political decision; therefore, legal thresholds in proportional electoral systems vary quite a lot, from 0.67% to 10% of the national vote. Within this empirical spectrum, however, Georgia has one of the highest legal hurdles world-wide. Generally, it can be stated that the “mechanical” concentration effect of such a high threshold will hardly remain within the acceptable limits of “proportional representation”. In other words: It will exclude a considerable number of parties/valid votes from Parliament in favour of the strongest political forces; consequently, it tends to produce a rather majoritarian effect. This is basically confirmed by the 1999 parliamentary elections, where all in all 283,279 valid votes (14.1%) were ‘lost’ (see Table 1). Given the recent fragmentation of the Georgian party system following the break-up of the predominant CUP, the “exclusion effect” of the threshold will surely be reinforced during the next elections; it might even come to a result similar to the Russian Duma elections of 1995, when almost 50% of the valid votes were ‘filtered’ by a 5%-threshold and, due to this effect, the bigger parties could double (!) their seats (in relation to a pure proportional distribution of votes). And if the 1999 Russian Duma election had had a 7 percent threshold it would again have been very disproportional. A maximum of 5 percent is the most that can be justified. Moreover, it could be envisaged to increase the threshold by steps, e.g. 4 percent at the next election and 5 percent at the election after that (without changing the law, which would determine from the day of its adoption the date for the increase of the threshold). In sum, the 7%-threshold is definitely too high not only in normative terms, but also with regard to the actual political context. Therefore, it would be highly recommendable to lower it to 4%-5%. This would imply a revision of Article 50.2 of the Constitution.
Table 1: The 1999 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia
Source: Kuchinka-Lan?ava, Natalie, Grotz, Florian, “Georgia”, in Nohlen, Dieter/Grotz, Florian/Hartmann, Christof (eds.) : Elections in Asia and the Pacific. A Data Handbook. Vol. I : The Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2001.
a The relevant figures refer to the “second votes” cast for the party lists in the nationwide constituency.
c Since the number of invalid votes is not given explicitly in the CEC protocol, this figure was calculated by the authors.
d Others include a total of 22 parties: B-RT-FG: 5,657 (0.3%); B-PF-CS: 4,339 (0.2%); B-VG-GC: 4,275 (0.2%); B-C-S: 3,778 (0.2%); B-RCPP: 3,229 (0.2%); CDUG: 2,951 (0.1%); PESDPG: 2,171 (0.1%); PDP: 1,917 (0.1%); B-XXIC-GN: 1,058 (0.1%); B-UNM: 994 (0.0%); FPG: 828 (0.0%); DAP: 758 (0.0%); B-GNUP: 733 (0.0%); PUC-LUG: 643 (0.0%); NPG: 593 (0.0%); UGN: 555 (0.0%); NIDPG: 529 (0.0%); DCG:452 (0.0%); PM-FG: 419 (0.0%); PU-S: 412 (0.0%); ILG: 344 (0.0%); PUC-AGFU: 333 (0.0%).