Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze has, as a way of breaking the impasse over the controversial rule on electing 75 majoritarian MPs, proposed an increase in the overall number of lawmakers in the new parliament from the constitutionally set 150 to 175, MP Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, said on March 10.
MP Gamkrelidze, who along with five other New Rights Party MPs, is on hunger strike outside the parliamentary speaker’s office, told Rustavi 2 TV’s late-night political talk show, Primetime, that Burjanadze had met him and his fellow hunger strikers and had made the proposal.
“She asked us if the opposition would agree to an increase in the number of seats to 175; it is absurd and not a single opposition party would agree to it. That would mean saying no to the  referendum results,” MP Gamkrelidze said. No immediate comment from Burjanadze’s office on the matter was available.
Georgian voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of decreasing the number of lawmakers from the current 235 to 150 in a referendum in 2003.
The proposed rule on electing majoritarian lawmakers is currently a major source of contention between the opposition and the authorities. The rule, which was endorsed with its first hearing on March 4 by Parliament, proposes electing one majoritarian lawmaker from each of the 75 constituencies. If approved on the second and third hearings it would lead to an increase in the number of majoritarian MPs in the new parliament from 50 – as currently mandated in the constitution – to 75 and those elected through the proportional party-list system will go from 100 to 75.
The opposition sees the proposal as damaging to their prospects in the forthcoming elections and instead wants so-called ‘regional proportional lists’ for electing 50 majoritarian MPs.
Regional proportional lists allow parties or election blocs to nominate several candidates in each constituency (the number of seats available would depend on the size of the constituency). Fifty majoritarian seats in the parliament, with this system, would be allocated proportionally, based on the votes received by parties in a particular constituency. The system entails setting an election threshold and would preclude independent candidates, as all candidates must be nominated by a party or an election bloc.
To coincide with the second hearing on the majoritarian proposal, the opposition is planning a protest rally on March 11 outside Parliament.