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Majoritarian Voting Versus Party Lists

By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 23
The general shape of the forthcoming parliamentary elections has been outlined. The Georgian parliament will still host 150 members. Out of this number 73 will be elected through direct votes from the districts in so called majoritarian form and 77 will be elected though the party lists, or so called proportional representation. Commentators, analysts, and journalists, however still continue discussing the distribution of seats between majoritarian and proportionally elected MPs. Some representatives of the ruling party suggest that proportional lists should be abolished completely and all MPs should be elected directly by the population. The argument is that ordinary people want to vote for a person who they know. This opinion though is challenged by others. For instance the Labour party demands the abolishment of the system of voting for majoritarian MPs. According to it, it is very easy for the ruling party to manipulate the voters and force them to vote towards the officially selected pro ruling party candidate.

When in 2003 a referendum decided that parliament should consist of 150 members the number of MPs was distributed in such way: 50 should be elected by direct votes in a majoritarian system and 100 through the party lists proportionally. In 2008, just before the elections the ruling party demanded a change to the rules and the 150 seats where distributed into equal parts: 75 for majoritarians and 75 for proportionalists. The ruling power really likes the majoritarian system; out of the 75 majoritarian seats, 72 represent the ruling power. Analysts think that majoritarian elections indeed give a big advantage to the ruling force. It should be mentioned though that in the majoritarian system the election barrier is 30%. This is an obstacle which could be easily overcome by the ruling authorities. Therefore to create equal opportunities some organizations in particular Transparency International Georgia recommends that the Georgian government create a 50% barrier for majoritarian seats. In this case the ruling power and opposition majoritarian candidates will compete in equal conditions.

However, all these possible changes cannot be implemented now as the rules of the game are already accepted by the parliament. There is one other element to majoritarian voting: independent candidates can run for a majoritarian seat. Analysts suggest that this could be used by the ruling power which can encourage local businessmen to participate in the elections, enter the parliament and only there unite with the United National Movement. However, there is always the threat that the independent MP will renege on such an informal agreement once in parliament as well. There is one more possibility that the opposition can use to confront the government in majoritarian seats. This is uniting and promoting one candidate in majoritarian districts as well as nationally for Prime Minister, however history shows that to unite and present united candidates is not easy. However, today Bidzina Ivanishvili can be considered a figure who can unite the opposition. So the battle for parliament is promising fiercer competition that usual this coming year.