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Parliament Speaker supports election report

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 19
Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili stated that he supports the opposition demand with regard to making amendments to the election system.

Usupashvili stressed that as a Georgian citizen, he supports the memorandum drafted by the non-parliamentary opposition parties. He underscored that his consent did not necessarily mean his acceptance of the appeal made by the Georgian Dream coalition.

Several non-parliamentary opposition parties, among them New Rights, and Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement–United Georgia, have been campaigning jointly for several months, demanding reforms to the majoritarian component of the election system.

The parties are demanding that they scrap this component entirely.

The memorandum reads that reform is needed before the 2016 parliamentary elections, as the existing system undermines the principle of equality of suffrage, and fails to proportionally allocate seats in the parliament.

Georgia has a mixed system in which 73 lawmakers in the 150-seat parliament are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies, and the remaining 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear the 5% threshold.

The size of single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies vary from each other by number of voters – ranging from over 150,000 voters in the largest constituency, to less than 6,000 voters in the smallest one.

The opposition United National Movement, which was against the amendments while being in office, now support the memorandum, and say that it should be drafted as a bill and sent to parliament for a vote.

“Only then we would see whether the coalition and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili are ready for such vital amendments or not,” UNM member Mikheil Machavariani said.

Head of Transparency International Georgia Eke Gigauri states that NGOs had been campaigning for the changes for years, as the current election system is unfair and fails to ensure the equal distribution of votes.

“While being in the opposition the current Georgian Dream, parties also supported the amendments,” Gigauri said.

Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs, and the Venice Commission, have long been recommending that Georgia make the change.

The difference regarding the distribution of seats and votes received in the party-list contest was vivid in the previous parliament, when then UNM held over 79% of the seats, although receiving 59% of the votes in the 2008 parliamentary election. That was because the UNM won all but four single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies across the country.

Carrying out the amendments in the election code requires at least 113 votes in parliament.