In January 2016, as a result of amendments to the “Electoral Code of Georgia”, 17 villages of the Akhalkalaki municipality (five majoritarian districts) were included in the Borjomi electoral district. This change also united the Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda electoral districts. Many residents of Javakheti are concerned with the fact that particularly the villages bordering with the Borjomi municipality are being included in another electoral district. According to the new law only one majoritarian deputy will represent the Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities in the Parliament. This situation creates resentment among Javakheti residents because the Parliament will have one less Armenian deputy.

Representative of Baraletski territorial district Petros Makaryan, whose district according to the new law will be united with the Borjomi municipality into a single majoritarian district in the upcoming elections, expressed an opinion that if the government does not change its decision on the issue, people will protest.

“With great effort we were able to keep people from protesting. We hope that [the decision on uniting the electoral districts] will be changed. We are concerned particularly about the border villages [being included in another electoral district]. If they needed quotas, they could have included non-border villages of Dilisk and Kulikam and have avoided rising unnecessary suspicion among people around this issue. People see other motives behind this decision. If today we are talking only about quotas, then tomorrow territories also could be handed over to Borjomi. People always think about the consequences”.

Big Samsar is also on the list of the villages that are included into the Borjomi municipality for the upcoming elections. One of the residents of the village Ashot Nikoghosyan is also outraged by this decision. According to him the residents of the village will not be able to travel frequently to Borjomi to meet with their deputy. “What do we care about Borjomi deputy?! For example, what if I travel to Borjomi, and he is not in his office?! How many times do I have to travel back and forth with no results?! We are not millionaires to spend money on every meeting with the deputy. We always turn to our deputy. I have to spend 100 lari to get to Borjomi, but I will get to Akhalkalaki only for 5 lari”, says Ashot Nikoghosyan.

Ashot Nikoghsyan is also concerned that the local population does not speak Georgian and will not be able to communicate with the deputy. “We don’t speak Georgian; they don’t speak Russian. How are we supposed to talk?”

Another resident of the village Merenin Kaghktsyan also shares his concerns: “How are we supposed to drive 300 kilometers to Borjomi to meet with the deputy?! We want our deputy to be from our municipality”.

The representatives of the Akhalkalaki municipality appealed in writing to the president and the Parliament of Georgia requesting to review these changes to the electoral code.

Chairman of the International Center for Civic Culture Kote Kandelaki says that the law was adopted at the initiative of the Venice Committee in order to level the number of voters in all the electoral districts. In order to level the number of voters, the boundaries of all electoral districts all across Georgia have been amended. According to the new law, each electoral district has to have 47-48 thousand voters.

However, Georgian Parliament deputy from the Akhalkalaki municipality Samvel Petrosyan and many residents of the region think that this law violates their rights as a national minority. The Venice Committee recommendations also include a section on regions populated by minorities, in which case the boundaries of the region could be left unchanged.

“The Constitutional Court should not adopt a one-sided approach and be concerned only with quotas. It also has to take into consideration that national minorities live here, and that it is necessary to create conditions so that we can live here in peace and develop”, says Samvel Petrosyan.

However, according to experts, this law will apply only to the upcoming parliamentary elections, as subsequently the majoritarian system will be abolished and the deputies will be elected based on party lists.

Despite this, many residents of the region still hope that the Parliament will change its decision on this issue.

To remind, the next parliamentary elections in Georgia will be held in the fall of this year.

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