Talks on electoral system reform should start from the blank page without any "pre-prepared" proposals, Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairman, said on October 28.
The remarks were made in an apparent response to a group of eight opposition parties, which on October 4 put forth a joint package of proposals on election system reform.
The same group of parties, which includes non-parliamentary opposition except of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), on October 12 made a written appeal to President Saakashvili and Parliamentary Chairman Bakradze, requesting for launch of talks on the proposals put forth by them a week earlier and also expressing readiness to discuss other election-related proposals, which the authorities might deem necessary.
"I am ready to meet all those political parties, which are ready to come to the Parliament without any preconditions and ultimatums with readiness for compromise. There is readiness for compromise and openness on our part; we welcome any political party with similar stance and we are ready to work with them," Bakradze told journalists on October 28.
"[The process] of improving electoral environment should be based on mutual confidence, negotiations and agreement between the parties and I do not think that ultimatum or pre-prepared documents will contribute to the process," he said.
Although the written appeal made by the eight opposition parties does not contain any tough-worded formulation, in public statements leaders of National Forum party, which was in forefront of calls for election system reform in recent months, were warning that the authorities refusal to agree on the opposition's proposal might become a reason for launching street protest rallies.
Going into negotiations with already prepared package of proposals has been described by the ruling party lawmakers as an ultimatum.
"It's not a cooperation when one comes with already prepared recipes," MP Giorgi Gabashvili of the ruling party said on October 28.
"It seems our opposition, mainly the non-parliamentary one, has not learnt that it should not speak on the language of ultimatum," MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, the leader of parliamentary majority, said on October 28.
Opposition politicians say that after the joint appeal was made the authorities appeared in unfavorable position, because on the one hand, they say, the ruling party was unwilling to improve the election system, but on the other hand it was also realizing that saying openly no to reasonable proposals of the opposition would discredit the authorities.
"They [the ruling party] try to anger us and make us say no to talks. But on behalf of the Republican Party I can say that we will not say no and we are ready for talks," Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, which is among the group of eight parties, told Kavkasia TV on October 28.
"They were criticizing us saying that we had no vision, but now when we put concrete proposals they say it is an ultimatum," he added.
The Parliamentary Chairman made his October 28 statement just after a several parties from the parliamentary minority group called for talks on the election system reform. Statements made by them were much in line with those of the ruling party. Leader of National-Democratic Party, which has one seat in the Parliament, said the legislative body should be in the center of such talks and negotiations should be held without "any preconditions and ultimatums."
MP Giorgi Targamadze, leader of parliamentary minority and of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), said that the initiative coming from the parliamentary minority was not not in any way overlapping the one made by the eight opposition parties to which CDM was also part.
On July 21, 2010 Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Bakradze, called on the opposition for resumption of an inter-party working group on electoral reform “to further improve the electoral environment” before 2012 parliamentary elections. He was referring to the inter-party group, which was holding talks hosted by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) ahead of the May, 2010 local elections. Although the group developed amendments to the election code, it became deadlocked on some key aspects and eventual agreement failed within that group.
A group of seven opposition parties said in a joint statement on July 29, 2010 that “fair” format of talks were needed for resumption of election-related talks. The ruling party lawmakers say that the opposition’s reluctance to engage in the same format which was working ahead of local elections became a reason for delaying the process.
“We are ready to meet the opposition and jointly agree on a possible format of talks,” Akaki Minashvili, a senior lawmaker from the ruling party told Civil.ge on October 29.