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Opposition’s Protest over Electoral System Thwarts Parliament Session
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Jun.'15 / 17:26

Parliament failed to hold a session on June 10 due to lack of quorum of at least 76 MPs required for a session to be opened after opposition lawmakers refused to undergo registration.
 
Opposition MPs from UNM and Free Democrats parties said the move was part of their protest against Georgian Dream ruling coalition’s electoral system reform proposal, which falls short of opposition’s demands.

72 MPs, four short of required quorum, underwent registration early on Wednesday afternoon. GD parliamentary majority group has 86 members, but some of them were absent.

“The reason why we refuse to register is that… the authorities do not speak with us [on electoral system reform] and want to tailor the system on themselves,” MP Irakli Chikovani of Free Democrats said.

“Of course opposition and government may have different opinion on many issues, including on electoral system, but not undergoing registration is a sabotage and obstruction to the Parliament,” a senior GD lawmaker, Gia Volski, said.

“It is your obligation to secure quorum,” UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili told GD lawmakers.

Lawmakers reconvened in the parliament chamber in Kutaisi later on Wednesday afternoon, but 75, one short of required quorum, registered. Three following registrations also failed to produce quorum and vice speaker Manana Kobakhidze, who was presiding over the sitting had to announce to reconvene for a session on Friday.

Opposition parties, both parliamentary and non-parliamentary ones, demand scrapping of the majoritarian component of the electoral system before 2016 elections. GD agrees to support constitutional amendment which would scrap the system by the time of elections, which will be held after the 2016 parliamentary polls – that is by 2020, in case there are no early elections.

The GD coalition laid out its reform proposal late last week. It envisages maintaining the mixed electoral model for the 2016 parliamentary elections, wherein 73 lawmakers are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies and the remaining 77 seats are allocated by a party-list, proportional vote.

The proposal offers to replace plurality vote to elect majoritarian MPs with majority vote, which entails increasing the vote threshold required for an outright victory in the first round from the current 30% to 50%.

The plan also includes redrawing single-mandate districts to provide equality of suffrage.

“Georgian Dream together with Ivanishvili has decided to unilaterally set [rules] for 2016 elections without consultations with the opposition,” UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili said. UNM was strongly against of scrapping majoritarian component of the electoral system when the party was in power.

“Government offers us to carry out reform in 2020 – that’s very inadequate… As far as the government is not ready to speak with the society about the reforms, which itself was promising to carry out when it was in the opposition, we opt for this kind of [protest],” MP Zurab Abashidze of the Free Democrats said.

When they were in the opposition, some of the parties, which are now in the ruling coalition, specifically the Republican Party, Conservative Party and National Forum, were demanding the very same reform of electoral system, which is now pushed for by the current opposition.

Meanwhile, a group of non-parliamentary opposition parties, which have been campaigning for the reform for months already, warned on June 10 that they may resort to street protests if their demand remains unheeded by the authorities.

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