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Opposition 8 given short time to assess new election proposals

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 27
After months of waiting, the ruling party presented its proposals regarding election reform to the Opposition 8, after the meeting between majority lawmaker, Pavle Kublashvili and the representative of New Rights, Mamuka Katsitadze, on June 24. According to the authorities these are final suggestions and nothing would be reviewed in more detail, despite the fact the main demands of the Opposition 8 have not been found in the proposals. The coalition is discussing the issue and will make a response in due course.

In the new proposal, the ruling party offers an increasing number of lawmakers in the new Parliament, to be elected in 2012, from the current 150 to 190, wherein 107 will be elected through a party-list, proportional system and 83 seats will be allocated to majoritarian MPs elected in single-mandate constituencies. Under the existing system, 150 seats are split equally (75/75) between MPs elected through the party-list and majoritarian systems. Secondly, in order to verify the accuracy of voter lists, the ruling party is offering to establish a special commission composed of representatives from the authorities, opposition and civil society organizations "on a parity basis."

Only those parties will be eligible to take a seat in the commission, which will join this deal on the proposed electoral system reform. The commission, according to the proposal, should secure verification of the voter list in a period between October 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. The commission's work will be funded from the state budget. The ruling party's proposal envisages doubling of limits set for donations to a party's electoral campaign. The proposal offers to allow a party to receive GEL 60,000 as a donation from a single individual and GEL 200,000 from a single company.

In addition, the ruling party's proposal offers to allocate GEL 1 million for those parties, which will clear the 5% electoral threshold in order to cover campaign expenses, GEL 300,000 of which will be used specifically for covering TV advertisement costs. Prices on political TV ads ahead of elections usually increase ten-fold on the most-watched national broadcasters. This provision on funding, however, will apply only to those parties which will become part of this agreement on electoral system reform. In other proposals the ruling party has also offered an extension of the deadline for consideration of electoral complaints from the current timeframe of two days. According to the proposal, relevant amendments to the election code should be passed by the Parliament no later than October, 2011.

The authorities are very strict regarding its proposals and no changes are expected, “if our proposals are unacceptable for them, in this case, it is natural, if we do not agree with political parties, speaking on any decision is useless,“ MP Kublashvili said.

From the date of presenting the proposals the parties of the Opposition 8 have been actively discussing them, despite the fact the main suggestions of those parties, namely the use of bio metric IDs during the elections, are not found within the majority suggestions. They also refrain from making comments, however in some of the opposition 8 representatives , the quick demand for a response has been taken as an ultimatum and has caused some irritation, “ we have been expecting their response for months and now we will specify the date of our response by ourselves, “ leader of National Forum, Kakha Shartava, said.

Comment has been made by the analyst and figure involved in opposition 8’s activities, Vakhtang Khmaladze, who has recognized that no issue has been raised through the majority initiatives which would guarantee free elections, “ I have been working on the election issue since 1989 and I can say that I know the election law very well. If the Opposition 8 gets those initiatives, the problems connected with voters lists, disputes and the so called roundabout will still remain .”

For certain oppositional parties, which are not in the Opposition 8, those suggestions have been taken as abuse and mockery of the Georgian people, “ those initiatives are not only a violation of democratic principles , they are also a mockery of Georgian society, by which, the authorities with the assistance of some unscrupulous opposition parties are trying to stay in power through falsified elections, “ a statement of the Georgian Greens Party reads and underlines that the party would not abide one more insult to the Georgian people.