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Why referendum is not acceptable

By Messenger Staff
Monday, July 4
In the post soviet Georgia the concepts of law and Constitution became very conventional. The relation towards these concepts is determined by the political necessity of the current administration. Today this tradition goes on. The agreement achieved between the ruling party and two opposition parties for increasing the number of MPs from 150 to 190 was in the need for the entities who signed the agreement. Therefore all the participants of the deal assured the public that the increase of the number of MPs is the business of the Parliament only and there is no need for referendum. Meanwhile it should be remembered that the number of Parliamentarians was determined by a referendum held in 2003 which was accepted by the Parliament, government and what is the most important, by the people.

As it is known, on November 2, 2003, during Shevardnadze administration, together with the Parliamentary elections a referendum was held which decided almost unanimously that the number of the MPs would be decreased from 235 up to 150. So this was accepted by Shevardnadze's administration and just 20 days later by the Rose Revolution administration, but it appeared that due to some new circumstances the ruling power and some opposition parties need to change the number from 150 to 190.

What is the essence of this issue? Out of the 150 MPs, 75 are elected directly as majoritarians representing 75 districts, whereas the remaining 75 are elected in a proportional system through party lists. Out of the current 75 majoritarian MPs, 71 represent the ruling party. Therefore the proposal of the Opposition 8 MPs to decrease the number of majoritarian MPs was unacceptable to the ruling forces because this mode of elections gave them the biggest chance to qualify their supporters for the Parliament. As a result of this it was decided to increase the number of majoritarian MPs up to 83. Whereas, proportionally elected party list candidates would come to 107.

As soon as the ruling party received support from some opposition entities, they introduced the amendments to the Constitution with the Guinness record speed. So far it was known that decisions adopted by the Parliament through referendum could be changed or abolished only with other referendum. But holding a new referendum was a risky way because the population evaluates very skeptically the activities of the MPs in the Parliament. There was high probability that if a new referendum was held, population would not support the idea of increasing the number of officials. General public perception is that most of the MPs are good for nothing. Besides, there is a time pressure. Holding a referendum needs time as well as coming to the power of its decision. Besides, holding a snap referendum could cost several dozen million GEL. Therefore it was decided that the decision would be taken by the Parliament.

Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, now in alliance with the ruling party, openly defends the new move by the ruling authorities supporting the idea of increasing the number of MPs in the Parliament. He thinks that 190 MPs is more democratic than 150. He thinks that in the Parliament there should be room for the broad spectrum of the political diversity in the country. The representative of the ruling power, Paliko Kublashvili, named several arguments against the referendum of November 2003 (the result of which was accepted by everybody until now). So according to Kublashvili, the Constitution forbids holding a referendum for adopting a law. Second: the decision of the referendum should have been implemented within a month and this was not the case. And third: the Constitution imposes that the referendum should be held over the entire territory of the country and since in 2003 Georgia did not control Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, the results of the referendum were “illegal.”

Until recently these details did not bother the ruling power, or they put a blind eye on them or just ignored them. This way or another, a new decision has been taken. The independent analysts, some of the opposition spectrum and certain segments of the population are asking questions. For instance, how the new arguments of the ruling party comply with the recent decision of the Parliament to impose new taxation changes in the country according to the referendum. If the decision of previous referendum was illegal, why were the country’s official bodies manage the state according to this decision? Yet another opinion, if the referendum decision was not implemented in one month’s time, this should not raise questions towards the decision but rather towards the irresponsibility of the Parliament. So these and some other questions need serious, convincing and solid answers.