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The News in Brief

Monday, December 21
Freeze expected in several Georgian regions

Weather will be sunny in parts of Georgia from 22-26 December, with a slight increase in temperature. However, as the Deputy Head of the Long-term Weather Forecasts Bureau Nino Tsverava has told IPN, subzero temperatures are expected in eastern Georgia’s lowlands tonight. Temperatures will range between -8 and -3 degrees.

As for western Georgia’s lowlands, -2;+3 degrees are expected. Temperatures in Tbilisi are expected to fall to -4 degrees.

During daylight hours, temperatures are expected to reach +4 degrees in the highland areas of Georgia at day.

Rain is forecast for most western - and several eastern - Georgian regions on December 21.

During the night of December 21, the temperature will be 0 degrees, while temperatures of +6 degrees are expected western Georgia’s lowlands and between -1 and +3 degrees in eastern Georgia’s lowlands.

Temperature will comparatively increase from December 22 in Georgia, but there will be still frozen spells in the mountainous regions.

Georgian Defence Ministry announces contracts for military service

The Georgian Defence Ministry this week announced vacancies for joining the military on a contractual basis.

The contracts offered have a four year term and are available for persons between 18 and 35 years of age, as well as those who have served a compulsory military service or had a previous contract, the Defence Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The base salary is 950 lari (nearly USD 400) per month, with the pay rising with promotion to higher ranks. The government also offers free medical services.

Servicemen can undertake exercises with foreign and Georgian instructors, study languages and participate in international missions.

Recruits have to pass physical and psychological tests, as well as a medical examination. Basic combat training lasts ten weeks.

Switching to a full professional military system was one of the promises made by the Georgian Dream government. Irakli Alasania, who was Defence Minister until his dismissal in late 2014, often talked about the importance of ending compulsory military service. His successor, Tina Khidasheli, is also in support of this idea.

A draft bill is still being debated in parliament.
(df watch)

Revised Bill on Electoral Redistribution Approved

Parliament passed with its second reading on December 18 a Georgian Dream-proposed bill on redistributing single-mandate constituencies.

The bill, which has been slammed by opposition parties, is significantly revised compared to its initial draft, which was adopted by the Parliament with its first reading a week earlier.

The draft has been revised in order to narrow the discrepancy in size of electoral districts by merging some remaining small constituencies and further dividing larger ones.

For instance, Tbilisi - which is currently divided into 10 single-mandate districts - was reorganised into 18 constituencies by the initial draft, but the revised version envisages dividing the capital city into 22 electoral districts; in addition, the village of Martkopi from the neighbouring Gardabani municipality will be electorally merged into one of Tbilisi’s electoral districts.

GD MP Zviad Dzidziguri, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that under the revised draft there are 12 districts where departure from an average size is between 10% and 15% and there is not a single district that would be larger or smaller by more than 15% of average size.

But this attempt to put all the districts technically within this norm has led to a situation wherein there might be a town that is geographically isolated from rest of its electoral district. It has further fuelled criticism from opposition lawmakers, who dubbed the motion the “artificial cutting and axing” of districts.

For instance, the town of Mestia in the mountainous region of Svaneti is currently a separate single-mandate constituency and remained such in the initial draft. It has only 8,300 voters, which is far less than the average size of a district (about 47,300 voters).

The changes will not apply to 8 out of a total of 73 constituencies: Sagarejo, Gurjaani, Mtskheta, Khashuri, Sachkhere, Chiatura, Tskaltubo and Samtredia. In the initial draft number of constituencies remaining in their current borders stood at 13.

Opposition parties, both parliamentary and non-parliamentary, are against keeping single-mandate constituencies, and are calling for the majoritarian electoral system to be scrapped by 2016 elections.

Georgia has a mixed electoral system in which 73 lawmakers in a 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 a 5% threshold.

“You are losing the 2016 parliamentary elections, and cutting and tailoring the districts will not help you,” MP Khatuna Gogorishvili of the UNM opposition party told GD lawmakers during debates on December 18.

“It [the proposed bill] does not provide for an equal size of districts; it is not built upon the consensus of political parties and the proposed redistribution is artificial,” said MP Pavle Kublashvili of the New Political Centre.

AN MP from Free Democrats opposition party, Zurab Abashidze, criticized the revised bill as “disastrous, amorphous and worse” than the initial draft. He also said that the proposed redistribution will “confuse” voters.

The bill has to be approved with its third and final reading, but no major changes can be introduced in it before the final vote.

The GD ruling coalition said that it plans a separate bill, which will replace the plurality vote for electing majoritarian MPs with a majority vote. That entails increasing the vote threshold required for an outright victory in the first round from the current 30% to 50%.