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The News in Brief

Thursday, October 1
Parliament Speaker on Electoral System Reform

There is no way to scrap majoritarian component of the electoral system before the next year’s elections, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili said, and alluded that he had to grudgingly accept a proposal to have fully party-list proportional system for post-2016 elections in order to avoid the collapse of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition.

“I will not sign up for the coalition’s collapse because of this issue,” he told journalists on September 29.

The GD ruling coalition has initiated a draft of constitutional charges to scrap the majoritarian component of the electoral system for the elections that will be held after the 2016 parliamentary polls. The draft is not likely to be passed because it has no backing of any opposition lawmakers, who want this change to be introduced for next year’s parliamentary elections.

“On this rhetorical question, why tomorrow if it is possible to be done today, I would answer: because that’s possible only tomorrow and not today,” Usupashvili said at a press conference on September 28 when asked about ongoing debates on electoral system. “There are things, which if you try to do today instead of tomorrow you may… spoil other things as well.”

He said that this issue needed unanimous decision within the ruling coalition. “What if there is no agreement [within GD] over this issue? Would it be the right solution to break the coalition because of this issue? If yes, for whom it would be the right decision? Will the country gain from the collapse of the coalition today?”

“If you tell me that this issue is worth risking the collapse of the coalition government, I would answer: 'no',” he said. “I know that the country would be worse off and it would also just mean holding the elections [early] under the existing system.”

Georgia currently has a mixed system in which 73 lawmakers are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies through a plurality vote, and the rest of the 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear a 5% threshold.

Although refusing to scrap the majoritarian component for the next year’s parliamentary elections, the GD coalition agrees to introduce a number of changes, which it says will improve the existing system for 2016 polls. The proposal offers to replace plurality vote to elect majoritarian MPs in single-mandate constituency with majority vote. That entails increasing the vote threshold required for an outright victory in the first round from the current 30% to 50%.

The proposal also includes redrawing single-mandate districts to provide equality of suffrage – that would put the system in line with the constitutional court’s May 28 ruling, which said that current division of single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies, which vary from each other by number of voters – ranging from over 150,000 voters in the largest one to less than 6,000 voters in the smallest one – undermines equality of vote. (

Russia clearly states that all neighbouring countries’ are territories of their national interests – Giorgi Margvelashvili

Russian politics clearly shows interest in all neighbouring countries’ territories, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili has declared during his visit to the United States, while delivering his speech at the External Relations Council.

The President has also answered the questions of the Kissinger Association Director.

“Russia-Georgia relations are the reason for which Georgia needs to become a topic of discussions. I deeply believe the topic should not be discussed only in context of Gergia-Russia relations. The Soviet collapse was very hard. All this happened in '90s,” Margvelashvili said.

According to him, Georgia experienced direct military occupation in 2008 as the Russian army entered Georgia, creating a threat in terms of Georgia’s independence.

“This is not an issue of only two countries’ relations. The 2008 developments occurred in Ukraine later. Therefore, the issue should not be raised only within the framework of two countries’ relations. Russian politics clearly shows interest in all neighboring countries’ territories. If something happens in Georgia, Ukraine or Moldova, Russia is allowed to interfere with by using its military forces and solve the matter. These are not the only examples of a certain type of politics which was used in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova,” Margvelashvili said. (IPN)

Georgia considers scrapping compulsory military service

The Georgian parliament on Tuesday started reviewing a proposal to abolish compulsory military service and move to a professional military based on contracts.

The goal of the bill is to redirect finances spent for compulsory military service into an improved professional army and increasing Georgia’s defence capability.

It was proposed by the United National Movement. MP Zurab Japaridze submitted the draft on July 23 and on Tuesday, the human rights committee and the civic integration committee started discussing the proposal.

The explanatory note says that in case of war, every citizen will be obliged to fulfill military duty, but there will only be a professional military service.

This means that the offices known as Comissariats which register and recall citizens for compulsory service, would be disbanded.

The author of the bill also describes its drawbacks: If a person wants to delay his service, he has to pay a fee, but after the proposed amendments, there will not be such a fee. In 2014, such payments amounted to 1,376,603 laris, according to Japaridze.

On the other hand, money will be saved which is now being spent on registration, medical inspection and other things associated with the compulsory system.

It is a common practice in Georgia that boys continue studying in order to avoid military service, often starting bachelor’s degree right after school, then do their MA or even PhD in order to avoid having to join the military. Others try to lose weight or in other ways fail the medical exam.

The bill now has to go through all the parliamentary committees before the parliament will discuss it at hearings. (Dfwatch)