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The News in Brief

Friday, July 22
A total of 12,000 families have received new homes from the government since 2012 - Giorgi Kvirikashvili

198 families will get living spaces to their ownership in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Khoni and Lagodekhi, - Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said at the governmental session yesterday.

As the head of the government said, 12 000 families have got their living spaces or new apartments to their ownership since October 2012.

"Today we are discussing the issue of legalization of 198 houses in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Khoni and Lagpdekhi. 12 000 families have already got their living spaces or new apartments to their ownership in since October 2012. We are continuing this process. In particular, this is being carried out by the Ministry of Refugees together with the Ministry of Economy”, said the PM. (IPN)

President claims Georgian media have become more anti-Western

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili claims the media in his country are publishing more anti-Western stories now than they used to.

In an interview with the program ‘Archevani’ on Rustavi 2 TV on Tuesday evening, he said that there is more anti-Western reporting because today’s government is not applying restrictions on anti-Western oriented people as the previous government used to do.

But Margvelashvili said he thinks that the Georgian Dream government is acting appropriately.

“We have to work hard to reassure people who claim that Georgia is better off in the [Russian-led] Eurasian Union. A person who tells me that if I become a member of the European family I will lose my ‘Georgian-ness’ is falsely embracing pseudo-traditions,” he told the TV talk show.

The President added that he can’t see any evidence that the government is encouraging or financing pro-Russian TV channels.

Margvelashvili brought up two reasons for why he thinks Russian propaganda in Georgia has increased: firstly because of government does not arrest or persecute people for being anti-Western, but tries to reassure them instead. He also believes that Russian propaganda has become more ‘sophisticated’.

“Soft power is working more effectively today,” he said, adding that the Russian propaganda used to be more radical.

During the interview, the president said he is on better terms with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili than his predecessor, Irakli Gharibashvili. The reason, he explained, is that the current Prime Minister is more constructive.

“Kvirikashvili is interested in discussing issues, topics and business. He never wants to talk about some third person or relations with someone else. Our cooperation is much more serious than what I had with his predecessor. This is how Kvirikashvili is, he never gossips,” he said. (DF watch)

Constitutional Court Rejects Opposition’s Complaint Against Electoral Redistricting

There is no instance of manipulation in the redrawn boundaries of electoral district, carried out by the Parliament in December 2015, Georgia’s Constitutional court ruled on July 20.

Lawmakers from the UNM opposition party filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court on June 1, claiming that the boundaries of the electoral districts were gerrymandered to the detriment of opposition parties.

The Constitutional Court ruled that “arguments provided by the applicants and analysis of boundaries of electoral districts do not show instance of abuse of electoral geography. Therefore, the constitutional complaint was rejected in this part.”

In another part of the same complaint, the applicants argued that tasking the Central Election Commission (CEC) to define boundaries of 30, out of 73 single-mandate constituencies, without setting clear criteria was fraught with risk of gerrymandering.

While the boundaries of 43 single-mandate districts were defined by the amended electoral code, delimitation of boundaries of remaining 30 constituencies – among them of Tbilisi’s 22 electoral districts, as well as 3 districts in Kutaisi; 3 in Batumi, and 2 in Rustavi, was carried out by the CEC.

Opinions of eight judges, participating in the adjudication, have split on this issue.

Outgoing chairman of Constitutional Court, Giorgi Papuashvili; deputy chairman of court Konstantine Vardzelashvili, as well as Ketevan Eremadze and Maia Kopaleishvili backed this part of the complaint.

But four other judges – Zaza Tavadze, Lali Papiashvili, Tamaz Tsabutashvili, and Otar Sichinava – were agains it; consequently, this part of the complaint was also rejected.

The ninth member of the Constitutional Court, Merab Turava, did not participate in the adjudication; but his vote would not have been decisive anyway as six votes were required for the complaint to be successful.

Parliament adopted amendments to the election code in December 2015, through which election districts were redrawn to narrow a huge discrepancy in size of single-mandate constituencies by merging some small districts and dividing larger ones.

As a result, the boundaries of single-mandate constituencies no longer coincide with those of administrative borders of municipalities.

The number of voters in each election district now varies from 41,598 in the smallest (Tbilisi’s single-mandate constituency covering mostly the capital city’s Vake district) to 54,168 in the largest (Rustavi’s one of the two single-mandate constituencies). Before the redistricting, number of voters was ranging from over 150,000 in the largest one to less than 6,000 in the smallest one.

The Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs said that the legislative amendments which redrew the single-mandate constituencies, were an “important step forward” to hold elections respecting the principle of equal suffrage, but it also criticized the legislation for lacking a specific method for establishing constituencies and criteria for permitted deviations in the number of voters among districts.

Georgia has a mixed electoral system in which 73 lawmakers are elected in 73 single-member constituencies, known in Georgia as “majoritarian” mandates (a candidate has to win over 50% of votes in order to be an outright winner in the first round, otherwise a second round should be held), and rest 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear 5% threshold in nationwide popular vote. (