Majority offers posts, power to entice opposition into parliament
By Shorena Labadze and Winston Featherly
Tuesday, June 10
The ruling party is offering posts, perks and sway for opposition MPs in the new parliament in an effort to entice them into ending a shaky boycott of the legislature.
With a commanding eight in ten seats after the disputed May elections and opposition MPs threatening to renounce their seats, the ruling National Movement faces the uncomfortable possibility of a one-party parliament, which would cast further doubt on Georgia’s international reputation as a striving young democracy.
But at least some in the opposition signal they are ready to talk to ruling party leaders about what the majority can offer them if they take their seats in an outgunned parliamentary minority.
So far, the majority is offering posts which include deputy chairmanships in all committees—though there are currently more committees than opposition MPs publicly willing to take office—and to make it easier for opposition parties to form factions.
Procedural rules now require seven MPs to form a faction, according to opposition New Rights politician Manana Nachkebia, who was an MP in the previous parliament. The Christian Democratic Movement, the only non-government party so far to take its seats in parliament, has just six seats after winning the third-largest share of the vote.
Newly-appointed majority leader Petre Tsiskarishvili said the ruling party will change the rules to allow six MPs to form a faction.
If a party holds a faction, they are guaranteed representation in committees and qualify for free television advertising in the next elections.
And there are other benefits: every member gets a government car, it becomes easier to secure funding for their projects, and the faction chair gets a big salary boost, according to Nachkebia, the former opposition MP.
The ruling party is also offering the post of vice-speaker, and possibly deputy vice-speaker, to the opposition.
Newly-elected Parliamentary Speaker Davit Bakradze first floated the offers in his opening address to the first session of parliament on June 7.
“This is not a full list [of proposals],” Bakradze said then. “We expect proposals from [the opposition] as well, proposals that will serve the purpose of having full-scale representation of the opposition in this parliament.”
The Christian Democrats gave a preview of their proposals yesterday. Party leader Giorgi Targamadze said they would seek guarantees the government won’t unilaterally amend the constitution, and direct elections of mayors and governors.
Targamadze said they would try to bring other opposition parties onboard.
But the eight-party United Opposition bloc and the populist Labor Party say they won’t consider anything short of annulling results from the May parliamentary elections.
As a precondition for talks with the government, Labor wants results annulled from the provinces of Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti.
Like practically every other region outside Tbilisi, districts in those provinces voted heavily for the ruling party; they also hold sizeable ethnic minority communities, where support for the government was often near-unanimous, according to final vote tallies.
“The only demand we have is the dissipation of the current illegitimate parliament,” said Giorgi Gugava, Labor’s secretary general. “[Kvemo Kartli and Samtske-Javakheti] are the regions where the elections were rigged most completely. Agreeing to our demand would completely change the current situation.”
United Opposition leaders leave even less room for compromise.
“We won’t accept their offers no matter what ideas they come up with,” said Kakha Kukava, a Conservative MP in the previous parliament and a leading United Opposition member. “The elections should not be annulled in only a few specific regions, because the elections were massively falsified in all of Georgia.”
Aside from the six Christian Democrats, just three opposition MPs so far have broke with their party's leadership by confirming they will take their seats—one from Labor, who was expelled for his decision, and two elected on the Republican ticket in local voting.
Yesterday two United Opposition members quit the coalition, suggesting they could also take their seats in parliament.
The United Opposition won 17 seats out of 150 in the May elections, to the ruling National Movement’s 119. The Christian Democrats and Labor each took six, and the Republicans two.
International observers said the elections were short of democratic but an improvement over the January presidential election; the opposition alleged mass intimidation and fraud during the campaign and voting.