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New Rights Accept Ruling Party's Proposals, Quit Group of Eight
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jun.'11 / 12:09

The New Rights opposition party said on June 27, that it was accepting proposals put forth by the ruling party on the electoral system reform and quitting the group of eight after a failure by the group to agree on joint position regarding those proposals.

This kind of development became highly likely on Sunday when Katsitadze said that despite shortcomings, in overall, the ruling party’s proposal was already “some result”, which was better than being left empty-handed.
“This is not an empty page, but it is not good proposal either; the New Rights have been working on improvement of electoral environment for ten years already and we had no major result in this regard so far; today some result exists,” Katsitadze said while speaking in Georgian Public Broadcaster’s weekly political talk-show Accents on Sunday.
“The New Rights Party’s position is to be result-oriented; we do not want to be left with empty page,” he added.

He said that from nine points in the ruling party’s proposal, there was full agreement on four, partial agreement on other four and disagreement remained on one point, involving voters list – making voter registry based on biometric identification system, demanded by the opposition and rejected by the ruling party.

He even said that there was “a partial agreement” on electoral system, wherein the ruling party was offering increasing number of lawmakers in the new parliament from current 150 to 190 in which 107 will be elected through party-list, proportional system and 83 seats will be allocated to majoritarian MPs elected in single-mandate constituencies.

Katsitadze said that the opposition was demanding ratio of 50 to 100 in favor of MPs elected under the proportional, party-list system.

“Of course [what the ruling party] has offered is not what we were proposing, but it also is not the same what we have today,” when 150 seats are split equally (75/75) between MPs elected through party-list and majoritarian systems, Katsitadze said.

He, however, did not mention one key aspect of the group of eight’s demand in regard of the electoral system, which is not addressed at all in the ruling party’s proposals – that is introducing a system, which will prevent such a situation wherein party’s majority in the Parliament is larger proportionally than its overall share of the vote.

Under the current system, wherein a majoritarian MP is elected through winner-takes-all system, the ruling party endorsed its candidates in 71 out of 75 single-mandate constituencies in 2008 parliamentary elections. In addition the ruling party endorsed 48 lawmakers through proportional, party-list system after receiving 59.18% of votes. As a result, although the National Movement in party-list contest received 59.18% support, it managed to take total of 119 seats, which makes 79.3% of seats in the 150-member legislative body.

If the scenario of 2008 elections repeats itself in 2012 parliamentary polls (ruling party garnering 59.18% of votes in party-list system and winning 71 out of proposed 83 majoritarian seats), the ruling party will control up to 70% of seats in the 190-member Parliament – less in percentage points than now (79.3%), but still larger majority than its overall share of the vote.

One issue that is likely to become a sticking point in the proposed system is increase of overall number of MPs from the current 150 to 190. Number of seats in the Parliament was reduced from 235 to 150 in a referendum in 2003 and again increasing seats in the legislative body through constitutional amendment by the Parliament, bypassing referendum decision, may become highly controversial.

Mamuka Katsitadze, however, said it would not create legal controversy, because the decision of the 2003 referendum was in fact fulfilled and stood for some time and it could now be revised.

Another controversy about the proposal is related to the provision in party and campaign funding scheme. The ruling party's proposal offers to allocate GEL 1 million for those parties, which will clear 5% electoral threshold in order to cover campaign expenses; but this amount of sum will only be allocated to a party, which joins agreement on the proposed electoral system. It means that if a party refuses to agree on the proposal offered by the ruling party, but manages to clear 5% threshold in the next parliamentary elections, it will fail to receive GEL 1 million. Some have already described this clause as an attempt by the authorities to buy political parties into the deal. Mamuka Katsitadze said it was “a bad clause” and the New Rights Party would push for improving this part of the proposal.

Katsitadze said on June 27, that there were some others within the group of eight who shared the New Rights position.  

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