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Election Talks Fail to Yield Deal
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 19 Nov.'09 / 01:10

Parties failed to agree on rule of electing Tbilisi mayor bringing talks on electoral system reform to a deadlock, some negotiators said after talks on November 18.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of an inter-party working group on electoral reform on November 18.

The working group was established initially by eight parties (the Labor Party withdrew from the group) in February, 2009 with the facilitation of U.S. National Democratic Institute. The Alliance for Georgia, which unites New Rights, Republican and Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD) parties, joined the group in September.

Disagreement mainly persists between the Alliance for Georgia and the ruling party with the latter insisting on a 30% threshold for electing the capital city’s mayor. The Alliance for Georgia was pushing for having a 50% threshold, wherein a run off will be required if neither of the candidates garner over 50% of votes in the first round.

At the November 18 meeting the Alliance for Georgia stepped back from its initial position and offered 45% threshold instead of 50%, but the proposal was voted down by the ruling party, as well as reportedly by National-Democratic Party. And the 30% proposal was vetoed by the Alliance for Georgia.

According to the procedures agreed by the participants, the working group’s decisions are made based on consensus.

Pavle Kublashvili, a senior lawmaker who represents the ruling party in the working group, suggested after the meeting that possibility for reaching an agreement within the working group was exhausted.

“I do not see any resource for continuing working in this format,” MP Kublashvili, who chairs the parliamentary committee for legal issues, said.

“I regret that everything ended this way, but it happened because of the Alliance for Georgia’s very inflexible position. We will continue consultations with parties individually on these matters [election code],” he added.

Zurab Abashidze of OGFD, part of Alliance for Georgia, said the Alliance was still ready to continue talks in frames of the working group.

“I hope Mr. Kublashvili and his colleagues from the ruling party will revise the decision and continue participation in the working group. We believe the ruling party should continue working in frames of this group,” he said.

MP Levan Vepkhvadze, who represents the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) in the working group, said there was little chance of reaching a consensus as the sides failed to bring their positions closer.

“It looks like a deadlock,” he said. “The 30% threshold proposal was vetoed by the Alliance for Georgia and the latter’s proposal for having 45% was vetoed by the ruling party.”

He also complained that because of this disagreement over rule of electing Tbilisi mayor the working group has also failed to progress on other issues as well.

The rule of electing mayor was voted in package with some other proposals, including rule on composition of the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo). All the participants agreed to have a 50-member City Council, wherein 25 seats will distributed among candidates elected through proportional, party-list system and 25 distributed among candidates who will win contest in majoritarian constituencies.

The participants also reached a consensus on the rule of appointing chairman of Central Election Commission (CEC), according to which the President will nominate three candidates and it will be only up to the opposition parties to select one from those three nominees. The agreement also implies that the President should involve civil society organizations in selecting three candidates.

MP Levan Vepkhvadze said CDM was against of voting on these issues in one package and was instead offering to vote on the proposals separately in order not to hinder progress on those issues on which the participants already had an agreement. Alliance for Georgia was in favor of keeping these issues in one package, citing that all these issues were part of one electoral system and there was no need to separate them.

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