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The Alliance consults the people about its plans

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 24
Members of the Alliance for Georgia met with civil society representatives at the Radisson SAS Iveria Hotel on November 20, where Alliance members, from Irakli Alasania’s party, the Republicans and New Rights, shared their viewpoints on the Mayoral elections and holding free, democratic elections in Georgia in general.

As New Rights leader Davit Gamkrelidze stated after the meeting, society plays a significant role in political processes and these kinds of meetings are very important for making contact with Georgian citizens and coming to understand their views.

“In Georgia, as in all democratic and civilized countries, the most significant political or other decisions are firstly made by the people. That is why the Alliance for Georgia pays special attention to their views. We have shared the Alliance’s future plans, attitudes and demands and listened to their opinions. We have presented our version of what the electoral code should be like and heard society’s viewpoint on these changes. One thing I can mention, and am very glad about, is that the civil society representatives liked the Alliance for Georgia’s idea of raising the threshold of votes a candidate must achieve to win the Tbilisi Mayoral elections. I hope that the Government overcomes its fear and take the people’s attitude on this question into consideration,” Gamkrelidze suggested.

Alliance member Zurab Abashidze stated that the Government should take into consideration not only this but the public’s view of who should run the Central Election Commission (CEC). “Our main demand after that of the electoral threshold is that if the President presents a candidate for CEC Chair he should do so in accordance with the public’s wishes,” Abashidze said.

Political analysts also commented after the meeting. Soso Tsiskarishvili said that the opposition should not compromise and should continue to fight to raise the election threshold, in order not to allow the Government to give an advantage to its candidate. Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that the barrier should be 50% for the Tbilisi Mayoral elections. “We have listened to the Alliance members and their plans. They presented their version of the electoral code. The most important element of this is the existence of a high barrier in the direct vote for Tbilisi Mayor. The Alliance for Georgia is prepared to accept a 45% barrier for the Mayoral elections, but for me this is unacceptable, the barrier should be 50%,” Sakvarelidze suggested.

As for the Government’s attitude towards this issue, the ruling party has already compromised on a number of key electoral issues, including the rules for electing the Tbilisi Mayor, and now expects the Alliance for Georgia to reciprocate and agree on a 30% threshold for electing the capital city’s Mayor, a senior ruling party lawmaker said on November 20. MP Akaki Minashvili, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, who has been engaged in talks on electoral reform at the inter-party working group, stated that the 30% threshold is the maximum on which the ruling party could agree. He also said that if the Alliance for Georgia refuses to accept this discussion on this and other election system-related matters would continue within Parliament only as time was pressing. Amendments to the election code are expected to be sent to the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal issues, before they are endorsed by Parliament.

The 30% threshold is similar to that which applied during the May 2008 Parliamentary elections, from which ruling party candidates were alleged to have benefited most, particularly in Tbilisi. They had an advantage because they were competing against several opposition candidates and the opposition vote was therefore split.