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Number of MPs to Remain at 150

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, December 20
The number of MPs will not increase to 190 and will remain at 150 as it has been since a referendum on the issue held in 2003. The government and opposition managed to agree on the issue on December 19 and have already expressed satisfaction concerning the outcome, emphasizing that consensus has been reached. However, others, outside the consensus suggest that the decision serves private, narrow interests rather than making any positive step.

According to the new agreement the number of majoritarian MPs will go down from the current 75 to 73 and the number of MPs elected through party-list system will increase from the current 75 to 77.

However, these are not only key points of yesterday’s agreement. The changes to the rules of the allocation seats through proportional representation is also envisaged. According to the new agreement, any political party or an electoral bloc will automatically endorse six of its members in the parliament if they clear the 5% threshold. It means that clearing the 5% threshold will automatically give a party or a bloc the opportunity to establish a faction within the parliament, which requires having at least six lawmakers.

There will also be a higher bar for constitutional amendment starting from late 2013. According to the agreement, a constitutional amendment will be initiated when three quarters of the majority, instead of the current two-thirds agree, and this will be required starting from December, 2013. It means that the support of 113 lawmakers, instead of the current 100, will be needed to amend the constitution.

On the sidelines of the negotiations, a representative of the opposition New Rights party, Manana Nachkebia told The Messenger, ”the opposition managed to protect its interests and received an outcome which will promote more seats for the opposition in the parliament and preserve referendum results.” She also mentioned that the idea of increasing the number of MPs came from the opposition, however then those opposition parties then criticized the New Rights and Christian-Democrats for pushing the idea forward. ”It was not a popular idea in Georgian society, to say openly, Georgians do not support the idea as parliament is not popular among Georgians. An increase in the number of MPs is mostly taken by Georgians as a growth in additional, useless people in the legislative organ. The authorities also tried to maximally link the unpopular decision to the opposition and why should we bear such load?”

“An historic agreement,” majority representative Nugzar Tsiklauri told The Messenger. According to the MP, for the first time in Georgian history the election code of Georgia would be adopted taking all sides' interests into consideration: ”we have permanently had consultations with the Venice Commission and the opposition, practically all recommendations have been foreseen in the document,” Tsiklauri, said, emphasizing that such consensuses which were carried out regarding election code “do not reveal weaknesses of any of the sides.”

The evaluation of the consensus as an 'historic agreement' was not shared by those opposition parties which did not participate in the negotiations. As a member of Our Georgia – Free Democrats, Irakli Chikovani told The Messenger that the fact that MPs are not being increased is good “as the government guessed that going against the public will not bring them any good.“ As for the concrete decision, according to Chikovani it will not make any real, positive changes for the opposition and is mainly in the government's interests. He also commented on changes regarding the constitution and mentioned that the election code should not foresee such changes at all, ”when the national movement are losing, they make preventive measures to stop the incoming powers to be able to change the constitution adopted by them.”

As analyst and current member of Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Advisors’ Council, Irakli Sesiashvili, told The Messenger, ”opinions and decisions on such serious issues should not be changed so frequently in a democratic state and all political forces should be involved in it.” He also mentioned that due to the frequency of the changes, Georgian society is unable to express its views and be an active participant on such serious matters. ”At the same time, based on all current polls , Bidzina Ivanishvili’s political organization is one of the leaders and such rating towards an organization should also be listened to” he said. As for the concrete decision regarding the number of MPs, Sesiashvili called “it a decision made by narrow clan interests.”

According to the head of the Election Political Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, the decision regarding the number of MPs is acceptable, however the ideal version would be different. ”MPs elected through proportion lists should be 100 and majoritarians 50, this would have been the ideal version. When the threshold for majoritarian election is 30%, it gives a serious advantage to the government," he said.