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Gov’t says it rejects special polling stations after opposition demands

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 26
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has stated that a political decision has been made over the rejectionof special polling stations in Georgia.

The decision came after the PM’s meeting with non-parliamentary opposition members on January 25.

It has also been agreed that a special group will be established in a month’s time - consisting of majority and opposition representatives - working on issues related to this year’s upcoming elections.

The opposition said they were satisfied with the meeting and stated that they saw Kvirikahsvili as the country’s “real Prime Minister, not a puppet in someone’s hand”.

However, they added that “there was no time for euphoria” as they were waiting for genuine outcomes after the verbal deals.

The opposition demanded the closure of the special stations as, according to them, such areas could be used by a leading political force for its own interests in the course of the elections.

The opposition also demanded the annulment of the majoritarian system of elections, which was postponed until 2020 by the current state leadership.

However, after the meeting with the PM, the opposition said there was the possibility of the change being made for the upcoming 2016 parliamentary race.

The PM highlighted that he was open to cooperation with the opposition and discussing various issues with them.

“We are absolutely ready to support the involvement of all political players in the political process.

“Such an involvement is especially crucial in the pre-election period.

“We want to establish a cultured relationship and show our foreign partners that different political actors in Georgia can peacefully speak with each other and conduct exemplary elections,” the PM said.

The country’s top official also emphasised that this type of interaction was important in the scope of the Georgian-European Association Agreement (AA).

The special stations are generally formed during the election process for the category of people who - due to a number of factors – are unable to vote at ordinary polling stations.

Such stations are generally opened for law enforcement officers,soldiers, prisoners, patients in hospital and residents of retirement homes.

In the current system, 73 lawmakers in Georgia's 150-seat legislative body are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies, while the remaining 77 seats are allocated by a party-list, proportional vote.

The opposition and the civil sector say only a proportional system should be maintained as it providesa fair distribution of votes.