Parliamentary elections on 31 October will be the first elections in Georgia to include some form of gender quota. But how many women have the parties chosen?
Gender quotas were introduced in Georgia as part of a package of constitutional changes adopted in late June.
The changes mean that from now on, parties must include a candidate ‘of a different gender’ at least every fourth place in their party lists. This is due to increase to one in every three candidates in 2028 until being disbanded after 2032.
The measure is meant to improve women’s representation in politics.
Out of 150 MPs in the Georgian Parliament, 120 are elected proportionally through party lists. The remaining 30 are elected from majoritarian constituencies, where there will be no gender quotas.
In a July 2019 survey by NDI, 65% of Georgians said they supported mandatory gender quotas in parliament.
Below we ranked the 10 parties leading in the polls by the number and position of the women in the top 20 names on their party lists.
=10. Lelo (5 women)
Founded in late 2019 by TBC Bank founder Mamuka Khazaradze, the Lelo Party came in joint last on our list. The party nominated the bare minimum number of women in the top 20 names on their party list, with one in every four being a woman.
Commenting on the then–proposed gender quota in April, Khazaradze called the move a ‘form of discrimination’.
Khazaradze, who is the party’s candidate for prime minister, has also been accused of using sexism in his criticism of Georgian Dream.
Most of the women included in Lelo's top 20 party list are widely known to the public. These include Pikria Chikhradze who led the New Rights Party throughout 2013–2015.
=10. Labour Party (5 women)
Also in joint last was the Labour Party, who also nominated the bare minimum number of women in their top 20. The party was also against the introduction of gender quotas.
The five women on their list are not particularly well known to the public.
Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the party since its inception in 1995, has been accused of making discriminatory remarks several times throughout his career and has also recently questioned the existence of gender-based violence in Georgia.
In late September, Natelashvili introduced his party’s three women majoritarian candidates by describing them as a ‘tasty bite’, adding that ‘their beauty’ would be enough for voters to support them.
8. Georgian Dream (5 women)
In eighth place is Georgian Dream, the ruling party chaired by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili. The party also nominated the minimum five women in their top 20, however, some of the women placed slightly higher on the list than the law requires.
Despite blocking an earlier attempt to introduce more robust gender quotas in 2018, Georgian Dream themselves introduced and passed the latest reforms.
Among the five women in their top 20 is Tea Tsulukiani in fourth place, the only one from the party proper.
As the gender requirement does not concern majoritarian candidates, Georgian Dream did not follow a similar formula with these candidates. On 20 July, they included just one woman in their list of 30 majoritarian candidates.
7. UNM (5 women)
Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) narrowly topped the ruling Georgian Dream party in our ranking by placing one woman a single place higher in their list. The party still nominated only the required five women in their top 20.
Despite not voting in favour of the gender quota in the parliament due to an unrelated boycott, they have been an exception among the country’s liberal parties in endorsing the measure.
In the 31 October elections, the UNM are running within the Strength in Unity electoral bloc which includes four minor parties: Movement — State for the People, Progress and Liberty, the Republican Party of Georgia, and the European Democrats.
6. Girchi (5 women)
Libertarian group Girchi, led by Zurab Japaridze, came in sixth place. The party also nominated the minimum 5 women in their top 20 but those in the top 10 were listed slightly higher than the UNM.
The group has been the most active in campaigning against gender quotas, going as far as unsuccessfully challenging the measure in Georgia’s Constitutional Court last month.
In September, Girchi's majoritarian candidate for the city of Batumi, Iago Khvichia, insisted that women were less interested in entering politics because men were quantitatively ‘more courageous’ and that it was ‘biologically determined’ so.
=5. European Georgia (6 women)
In joint fifth is European Georgia, a spin-off of the United National Movement. The party nominated six women in their top 20, one more than required.
The party has been vocal in their opposition of gender quotas, with the exception of one of their leaders, Elene Khoshtaria.
Khoshtaria, who is running for a majoritarian seat in Tbilisi’s Vake district, recently changed her tone on the topic saying she was ‘not against’ gender quotas anymore.
The party will be named on electoral ballots along with the names of the three leading men in the party as: Bakradze, Ugulava, Bokeria — European Georgia — Movement for Freedom.
=5. Citizens (6 women)
In joint fifth with European Georgia is the recently founded Citizens party. The party is led by Aleko Elisashvili, a former urban activist known for rejecting both the formerly and currently ruling political groups.
Like most of his party’s members, the women included in Citizens’ top 20 are not widely known to the public.
Elisashvili included 2 out of 6 women candidates in top 20 from outside his party.
The Citizens Party endorsed gender quotas but underlined that the mechanism could become discredited without an accompanying campaign to change public attitudes.
3. Alliance of Patriots (6 women)
In third place is the conservative Alliance of Patriots party, who also nominated 6 women but stood out in placing a woman at the top of the list.
Although formerly led by Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, the party’s General Secretary, Irma Inashvili, has taken over as the public face of the Alliance of Patriots.
In July, Giorgi Lomia, an MP from the party, insisted that gender quotas contradicted the constitution.
However, the socially conservative group with the strong anti-NATO positions nominated more women and in higher positions in their top 20 than most liberal groups in the country.
2. United Georgia (7 women)
Coming in second on our list is another socially conservative party, United Georgia — Democratic Movement led by Nino Burjanadze.
A veteran politician and one of the few women to lead a political party in Georgia, Burjanadze included herself and 6 other women in the list.
While the party gave more positions to women in top 20 than other groups, Burjanadze has been critical of mandatory quotas, preferring instead that parties remained only financially incentivised to be more inclusive.
1. Strategy Aghmashenebeli (8 women)
Coming in first place in our list is the newly formed Strategy Aghmashenebeli bloc. An electoral coalition led by prime-ministerial candidate Giorgi Vashadze, the bloc nominated 8 women in the top 20 of their party list.
Placing second in the list is Tamar Charkviani, the chair of the Law and Justice party.
In September, Vashadze claimed that one of the leading women in the party had been blackmailed with threats of leaking information about her private life.
The party refused to cooperate with the official investigation saying that the Georgian Dream-led government had failed to tackle previous similar crimes,
Women’s rights advocates have claimed this is one of the barriers discouraging women from going into politics.
Honourable mention: For Justice (11 women)
Led by Eka Beselia, a founder turned critic of Georgian Dream, the For Justice Party did not do well enough in recent opinion polls to be included on our list.
The party included 11 women in the top 20 names on their party list.
In July, Georgian Dream rejected a bill by Beselia that would have forced parties to name a candidate ‘of a different gender’ every third place on their proportional lists in 2020.