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Protest rallies expected as opposition set to spring into action

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 2
Spring and especially its final month is to be a very active period for the so called radical opposition parties and for their more moderate counterparts who support the changing of the current authorities through free elections. It is fairly obvious what we might expect from radical opposition, as street rallies have already been proposed by them; however it still remains unknown what the reformist opposition parties are planning. They will announce an alternative plan, only if and when there would be no sign of willing negotiations on improving the election environment from the ruling party until the final day of May.

"If negotiations on the election environment's improvement are not renewed by the end of May, the opposition 8 has got a plan we will voice immediately" Davit Usupashvili, leader of Republican Party, said. However, Usupashvili considers that the alternative plan might not be used, as the authorities have an obligation against the international community to achieve agreement on the issue, by the end of May.

When the opposition 8 is ready to wait until the end of the month, for radical opposition this term seems to be too long and they are ready to launch their activity from the beginning of May. As the leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia and active member of the Representative Public Assembly, Nino Burjanadze has mentioned the Assembly was actively campaigning in the regions, setting up “resistance committees” to create a well-organized group of activists in all the regions of the country.

“It took several months for the People’s Assembly to create a very serious movement, incorporating several components, involving our truth, our strength in numbers, well-organized people and a clear vision. It will definitely yield a result and we will return back our constitutional rights, restore elementary justice and ensure that this government will definitely be gone,” Burjanadze said. She said that the date of the launch of protest rallies would “not be too far from May 2”. Today, Representative Public Assembly is planning to voice their action plan, after which, in a short period street rallies are possible according to the Assembly Representatives.

The new electoral code should be passed by the Parliament this autumn to set up a new set of rules at least a year before the next parliamentary elections, a senior ruling party lawmaker, Akaki Minashvili, said in an interview with Georgian online media, on April 29.

“The main criterion is to have a new electoral code by this autumn. It means to pass the code with its third and final reading in the Parliament in autumn,” Meanwhile, he said, an agreement should be reached between the parties involved in the negotiating process on main principles, which would then be translated into a draft law. Before the new code is passed, he said, Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, should be invited into the process to provide its legal expertise and in addition the agreed principles should be presented to the public for discussions. According to Minashvili, the most important thing was to have a new electoral code by autumn without having any fixed deadlines for reaching an agreement on principles; he said the parties could reach an agreement by the end of May or possibly later.“There is a resource for an agreement and I am hopeful in this regard,” he said.

He has also underlined that the ruling party had already communicated its willingness to various parties to hold “individual consultations”. He said that those consultations would define when and how the Election Working Group can be resumed.MP Minashvili said that there “are many question marks” about the opposition’s proposal. One of the components of the opposition’s new proposals is to increase a threshold from 30% to 50% for a majoritarian MP candidate to be declared an outright winner in the first round of votes. The 50% threshold increases chances for a runoff in which an opposition candidate may have more chances to win a majoritarian MP contest. But the MP said the ruling party was against an increasing of this threshold. He said that setting 50% threshold for the first round of majoritarian vote would “not be fair” from the political reasons. He said that to some extend it would “amount to confusing voters”, because during the first round various parties nominate separate candidates, competing with each other with different political platforms, but then, in case of second round, those parties would mechanically form a de facto coalitions not based on their political views, but just for the purpose to win the contest in the run-off.