Election “compromise” legalizes discrimination01.12.2009 | 21:29
Georgia's radical opposition doesn't share the triumph of authorities that presented draft amendments to the Election Code yesterday. What the ruling majority calls "a compromise" will in reality stir heavier discrimination of United National movements political opponents at the local elections as stated by Kakha Kukava, a leader of the Conservative party in his interview with GeorgiaTimes.
Georgian authorities are delighted with "higher political culture" in the country, David Bakradze comments on the agreed amendments to the Election Code approved by 8 (!) political parties not specifying which ones though.
The speaker thinks an important amendment to the law is the clause on direct election of Tbilisi mayor since for a long time this issue has aroused disputes between political forces. But already in spring the authorities (threatened with resignation demands) decided to buy off the opposition with the post of the mayor of the capital though the opposition will have to fight for it at elections in spring 2010.
Bakradze reminded about insulting statements the working committee heard from the ruling authorities over past 10 months. At first the radicals categorically refused to cooperate with them. Then traditionalists and Irakli Alasania with his newborn Our Georgia-Free Democrats party agreed. In September Republicans, Conservatives, People's Party, Free Georgia and New Rights joined their proposals.
The authorities pretended they were looking for a compromise and finally proposed to consider the document that even Irakli Alasania refused to sign. The opposition was left with nothing.
What's the idea of amendments? The main point of course is direct elections of the metropolitan mayor. Earlier the head of Tbilisi was nominated by the governor and approved by Sakrebulo - the city council.
The principle of Central Election Committee chairman nomination is changed too. Now he/she will be elected by representatives of opposition parties inside the CEC out of three candidates presented by the president. In case none of the candidates wins locally, the CEC head will be elected by the country's parliament.
According to the draft Sakrebulo will embrace 50 deputies, half of them elected on majority principle, the other 25 - with the system of proportions. (That means voters will have two bulletins: one with names of candidates, the other - with the names of parties that present their lists). The mandates will be given to candidates that will overcome a 4% barrier. Election term will be 60 days instead of 40 like now.
According to Bakradze the new document is "more democratic" than the old law. "I think we've made a considerable step forward. Following debates and discussions, we finally managed to reach agreement. This proves that different political groups can compromise when there is a will. It's very important that the opposition will take an active part in a new CEC chairman election", - he emphasized.
However the radical opposition doesn't share the joy of the speaker. Kakha Kukava, a leader of the Conservative Party highlighted in his interview with GeorgiaTimes he hadn't signed any agreement on electoral amendments.
- From the very start we warned opposition parties it was no use working in that commission. And our apprehensions proved true. The elaborated amendments became a mechanism to keep opposition away from local authorities", - the politician stated.
- Exactly what amendments, in your view, diminish possibilities of the opposition?
-Firstly it's a 30% voting barrier. There is a system adopted in all democratic countries that a winner must obtain 50% + 1 vote. And here we can have a mayor elected with 70% of the voters against him! It's undemocratic. All the more so that the ruling party in Tbilisi will obtain nearly 30% given the administrative resource they have.
-But the opposition will have a majority, won't it?
- The opposition has 70% for various parties. If we had a 50% barrier and a second ballot one opposition candidate could have a real chance to win.
- Are there any other drawbacks of the law draft?
- The situation in Tbilisi will get worse due to one-mandate voting districts that replaced multi-mandate ones. This system creates more favorable conditions for candidates of the ruling party. The people vote for money, if the choice is reduced to one name. And the ruling party always has money.
- You mean you're against amendments to the Election Code?
- Yes. Generally we believe it unfair to change the rules of the game before each election. There were amendments before last parliamentary election, as well as before the local one. Speaking about regional election is it fair that Tbilisi mayor is elected in direct voting while mayors of other big cities - no? This is discrimination. Besides, according to the amendments the authorities will have majority in election committees allowing them to control election process and calculation of votes.
-Does that mean that old law, before the amendments were introduced, was better?