- ‘Opposition’s new proposals raise question marks’;
- ’Those question marks should be addressed in talks’;
- Ruling party against 50% threshold for majoritarian vote.
New electoral code should be passed by the Parliament this autumn so that to have new set of rules at least a year before the next parliamentary elections, a senior ruling party lawmaker, Akaki Minashvili, said in an interview with Civil.ge on April 29.
“The main criterion is to have a new electoral code by this autumn. It means to pass the code with its third and final reading in the Parliament in autumn,” MP Minashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, said.
Meanwhile, he said, an agreement should be reached between the parties involved in the negotiating process on main principles, which would then be translated into a draft law. Before the new code is passed, he said, Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, should be invited into the process to provide its legal expertise and in addition the agreed principles should be presented to the public for discussions.
In last few days the electoral-related media reports were more focused on the timeframe of the entire process, which in fact now remains suspended. Politicians representing a grouping of eight opposition parties, which have an agreement to speak with one voice with the ruling party over electoral system reform, say that the agreement on major principles of reform, which should then be reflected in the draft law, should be achieved by end of May.
MP Minashvili, who is one of the ruling party’s negotiators over electoral reform issues, said that the most important was to have the new electoral code by autumn without having any fixed deadlines for reaching an agreement on principles; he said the parties could reach an agreement by end of May or possibly later.
“There is a resource for an agreement and I am hopeful in this regard,” he said.
Levan Berdzenishvili of the opposition Republican Party said on April 29 that the group of eight opposition parties had “a plan B”, which would be put into action if there was no tangible sign of progress before the end of May.
Beyond the dispute over timeframe more serious disagreements remain over the substance of potential principles of the electoral reform.
The talks in frames of Election Working Group remains suspended since March. The most recent major development came on April 5, when the grouping of eight opposition parties presented their new proposals on the electoral system on which the ruling party has yet to give its response.
But as MP Minashvili said in order for the ruling party to give its response, first talks should be resumed.
“It would be ineffective to engage in exchange of views [about the proposals] through media sources,” MP Minashvili said. “The fact that we’ve learnt about the opposition’s [new] proposals from the media reports, instead from the negotiating format, was in itself regretful.”
He said that the ruling party had already communicated its willingness to various parties to hold “individual consultations”. He said that those consultations would define when and how the Election Working Group can be resumed.
MP Minashvili said that there “are many question marks” about opposition’s new proposals, presented on April 5. He, however, said that those “question marks” should be addressed at the negotiating table and not through exchange of views via media sources.
One of the components of the opposition’s new proposals is to increase a threshold from 30% to 50% for a majoritarian MP candidate to be declared an outright winner in the first round of vote. The 50% threshold increases chances for a runoff in which an opposition candidate may have more chances to win majoritarian MP contest.
But MP Minashvili said the ruling party was against of increasing this threshold.
He said that setting 50% threshold for the first round of majoritarian vote would “not be fair” from the political reasons. He said that to some extend it would “amount to confusing voters”, because during the first round various parties nominate separate candidates, competing with each other with different political platforms, but then, in case of second round, those parties would mechanically form a de facto coalitions not based on their political views, but just for the purpose to win the contest in the run-off.