Counting Chickens…An Election System for the People

The Georgian Parliament will determine the fate of the electoral system during Holy Week (Easter). Who will have to turn red, the majority or the minority, will be decided on Red (Good) Friday, when the constitutional amendment on the abolition of the majoritarian rule will be voted. The whole opposition, including the parliamentary minority, is currently demanding the cancellation of a majoritarian system starting October 8, 2016, after the Parliamentary elections. While the majority plans to introduce a proportional system from 2020, the four year difference is giving rise to the existing political passions, since it has vital importance.

The results of the vote are to be made known today, when 113 supporting MP votes will appear on the scoreboard. Whether the votes will be for the majority or the minority is hard to predict, as the majority lacks at least 17 votes for the desired outcome, not to say anything about the minority. Georgian Dream has already tried to initiate a constitutional amendment once, when the bill on moving the parliamentary sessions from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, prepared by Koba Davitashvili, an MP from the majority, was introduced. However the majority was not able to introduce it. And all this happened when the ruling coalition was united. Now, when there are neither Republicans, Forumers nor Free Democrats in the coalition, it is highly unlikely that the governmental majority will achieve the desired results.

So, the majority as well as the minority will be facing quite tough negotiations. Both parties are accusing each other of adjusting the electoral system in their own favor. One of the leaders of the minority, Mikheil Machavariani, believes that the law, which the majority plans to introduce from 2020, has many ambiguous points and that it is tailored only for Georgian Dream. “The only thing written in their law is that after the elections of 2016, all 150 mandates will be proportional. It explains nothing about whether the system being will be regionally proportional, or just proportional. It is unclear and unacceptable. Georgian society is not familiar with the subject matter. I have a feeling that the Dream’s version is customized for the officials and not the people,” said Machaviani.

For now the government is offering the opposition the chance of dividing the electorate into majoritarian districts proportionally, meaning it offers the unification of small electoral districts so that every majoritarian will be elected by the same number of voters. To date 6 thousand in one district and 300 thousand voters in another district each elected one MP into parliament. The intellectual face of the majority, MP Gia Zhorzholiani thinks that this step is very important and that it will make every Georgian citizen equal.

“I want the parties to become stronger in our country and, in my opinion, proportional elections were one of those mechanisms which did not support this. If there aren’t strong political parties, then proportional elections become constraining and confusing. Proportional elections are effective in those countries which are multi-party or where there is a tradition of parties,” said Zhorzholiani. Although it seems like this is a fair decision considering the geography of our country, it still results in ambiguity. Since, for example, it is inconceivable for the districts of Dusheti and Kazbegi to have the same MP, as it is impossible for the population of both to not only not know that MP personally, but even to have seen him in real life.

If a consensus is achieved between the political parties and the project of the majority gets 113 votes, then the MPs will have to discuss the changes first in summer and later in September, because, according to the Constitution, the amendments should be taken through two separate sessions with a three-month interval. If this parliament does not approve the amendments during three readings, the decision will have to be made by the next one. But the opposition fears this outcome, because in backstage conversations, they state that they do not wish the project to be adopted on the first reading, since such a decision can be made for only one reason, which is the government boasting cooperation with the opposition to its (international) partners.

Zaza Jgarkava

28 April 2016 21:43