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Electoral Reform Talks Close to Collapse
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Mar.'11 / 22:57

Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) said on March 30 it was ready to act as “a mediator” between the ruling party and a group of eight opposition parties, which CDM itself is part of, to keep already suspended talks on electoral system reform alive.

“In order to save talks from final collapse, we offer to act as a mediator to hold consultations with individual parties separately to help pave the way for resumption of talks in existing format,” Levan Vepkhvadze, a negotiator and lawmaker from CDM, said referring to a negotiating format known as Election Code Working Group (ECWG).

Vepkhvadze was speaking after ECWG’s meeting on March 30, which was actually thwarted, because of absence of negotiators from those seven opposition parties, which are part of a group known as “eight”.

The group of eight opposition parties said in a joint statement last week that the proposals put forth by the ruling party on electoral reform were far short of their expectations and they would resume participation in ECWG if the ruling party “takes adequate approach” towards those proposal which the group tabled in October, 2010.

CDM itself is part of the group of eight opposition parties; this group is not a formal coalition and parties within the group only have an agreement to speak with one voice with the ruling party on electoral reform issues. Negotiator from CDM was present at the March 30, citing technical reasons – it was CDM’s turn to chair the meeting (chairmanship is rotating between the parties involved in the talks).

Although Levan Vepkhvadze of CDM said that he would not support continuation of talks within existing format without other parties from the group of eight, CDM’s proposal to act as a mediator may put CDM at odds with rest of the parties from the group. Mamuka Katsitadze of New Rights Party, which is part of “the eight”, said he could hardly imagine one of the members of “the eight” acting as a mediator between the group itself and the ruling party.

Absence of most of the opposition parties at the March 30 meeting was described by senior ruling party lawmaker and negotiator, Pavle Kublashvili, as withdrawal from talks.

“I do not see any chance of having an agreement with those parties, which have actually thwarted today’s meeting,” MP Kublashvili said.

He said that the opposition’s demands amounted to ultimatum and were totally unacceptable.

He said that the ruling party was ready to continue talks, but made it clear that the ruling party would not compromise on one of the most contentious issues, which is related to majoritarian MP election system.

President Saakashvili spoke strongly against changing the current majoritarian MP election system just shortly before the launch of talks in November, 2010.

The ruling party argues that each of the 75 constituencies in the country should have its individual representative in the legislative body. Rest of the 75 lawmakers are elected through party-list, proportional system.

The opposition wants 75 MPs to be elected through “regional-proportional system”, wherein multi-mandate constituencies will be introduced instead of existing single-mandate ones. The seats in each of the multi-mandate constituency will be allocated proportionally between the parties, which will clear 5% threshold in that particular constituency.

A negotiating format similar to ECWG was operating ahead of the May, 2010 local elections. The talks in frames of that format, however, were thwarted after a failure between the parties to agree on rule of election of Tbilisi mayor.

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