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Opposition Warns Ruling Party over Electoral Reform Talks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Mar.'11 / 02:30

Eight opposition parties accused authorities on March 23 of a failure to show political will to fundamentally reform the electoral environment.

In a joint statement the group stopped short of announcing withdrawal from the talks with the ruling party, but warned they would continue negotiations only if the authorities “make adequate steps.”

The eight opposition parties submitted their joint proposals on election system reform to the inter-party working group – a framework for election-related negotiations – shortly after the launch of the talks in November.

These eight parties do not form any formal coalition and their positions vary on various issues, but they have agreed to speak in one voice within the inter-party working group on electoral reform issues.

The group, dubbed as “the eight”, includes National Forum, Conservative Party, Republican Party, Our Georgia-Free Democrats, Georgia’s Way, New Rights, Christian-Democratic Movement (leading party in the parliamentary minority) and Party of People.

“Without agreement with the opposition and first and foremost with “the eight”, the authorities will not be able to hold election and if they anyway hold the election it will be a struggle of people against the usurper authorities instead of election. We want elections, but we are also ready for the struggle,” the joint statement reads.

“We do not cease talks, but we are ready to continue this process only if the authorities make adequate steps,” it continues. “Indicator of the authorities’ adequate approach will be a decision on biometric voter registry on the entire territory of the country and on the reform of the electoral system so that to maximally secure distribution of seats in the Parliament proportionally to votes received by the parties.”

The group of eight parties has been complaining recently that the ruling party was dragging out the talks by delaying to present their proposals on election system reform. But this is the first time since the launch of the talks when the group made such strong-worded statement putting forth conditions for the continuation of talks.

The inter-party working group was expected to meet on March 23, but the meeting was postponed; ongoing debates in the Parliament with the government members were cited behind the reason of the postponement.

On March 9 the ruling party presented its proposal laying out those issues in which the authorities are expressing readiness to carry out changes in the election code; but the proposal fell short of the opposition’s expectations.

There are two key issues in the ruling party’s proposal. One is about drawing up of biometric voter registry for only Tbilisi, instead for the entire country as demanded by the opposition and another one concerns increase of number of majoritarian MPs elected in the single-mandate constituencies – the proposal which is totally opposite to what the eight opposition parties are demanding.

The eight parties said in the joint statement that the ruling party’s proposal to apply biometric voter registry to only the capital city amounted to saying no to drawing up “reliable voter list”, because the major problems in this respect were in the provinces.

They also said that the proposal to increase number of majoritarian lawmakers was “a change into even worse direction.”

“We deeply believe, that Georgia is at a crossroads: either we will be able to fundamentally change the electoral environment… or the reins will be taken either by usurper – the current authorities heading on the path of Neo-Bolshevism, or by those who will overthrow them [the authorities],” the eight parties said in the statement.

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