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New Rights Prioritize Change to Election Code

Changes to the election code should be the opposition?s top priority, MP Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the opposition New Rights Party, said on October 3. He also said that his party endorsed calls for parliamentary elections to be held in April 2008, as was originally planned before controversial constitutional amendments were introduced.

The New Rights Party has remained aloof from the cross-party opposition-led campaign to release ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili. An umbrella group, comprising most opposition parties, as well as Okruashvili’s release, is demanding that parliamentary elections be held in April, instead of late 2008, and the abolition of the presidency.

?The government should listen to the public,? Gamkrelidze told reporters after meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Georgia, John Tefft. ?This first and foremost means that the current election code, and in particular the rule governing the election of majoritarian lawmakers, should be changed.?

Fifty new lawmakers, out of 150, will be elected to the new parliament through a majoritarian system in the 2008 parliamentary elections. This will be a first-past-the-post, ?winner takes all? system ? something which has been criticized by all the main opposition parties.

?As far as the date of the election is concerned,? Gamkrelidze continued, ?this should probably be discussed at the next stage [after the election code has been changed].?

?Our party, however, fully shares the position that the elections should be held early, as was envisaged before the constitution was amended.?

Presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with last December’s constitutional amendment, will be held simultaneously sometime between October and December 2008. It is up to President Saakashvili to set the exact date for the polls. The amendment was slammed by the opposition as ?undemocratic? as it has prolonged the term of the sitting Parliament for several months. It, however, has also decreased President Saakashvili?s term in office by several months.


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