Lowering the Costs of Politics


Before we even get the upcoming presidential elections over with, the political class has started getting ready for the parliamentary elections of 2020, with the issue of majoritarian and proportional lists hyping up. It is also noteworthy, and we do not know if it is accidental or not, that the people who started talking about quotas and reducing the election barrier from 5% to 3% are those who are exceptionally close to the ruling party.

Georgian politics is a weird phenomenon in general. The rules of the political game are perceived quite differently here. When the Patriotic Alliance’s inner party rights defender (in its Georgian definition) demanded a decrease in the number of MPs from 150 to 100, it fueled such a parliamentary intrigue that the recent presidential issues have all but disappeared into the shadows.

Representing the initiative group, Mamuka Tuskadze has already applied with an official request to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia. Tuskadze also demanded a referendum be held together with the presidential elections, and suggested asking one simple question: “Do you agree to decrease the number of MPs to 100?” The Patriotic Alliance and Tuskadze have already started collecting signatures to justify the need for the referendum and if they get 200 thousand, the CEC will have to print two ballot papers: one with a list of presidential candidates and the other with the above referendum question.

The question as to why the issue of a referendum came to the minds of the Patriotic Alliance and its “rights defender” Mamuka Tuskadze exactly now is easy to understand, as holding the referendum now will cost the government much less. However, it is as yet unknown what the “political expense” of this initiative will be. Today, the country of Georgia has 77 members elected by the proportional system and 73 members by the majority system. If this number is reduced to 100, 48 and 52 will be elected respectively. For the political party it should not matter much if they lead a campaign for 52 or 77 MPs, but if we take into account the majoritarian system, it really saves a lot, as financing 73 members will cost much more than 48. And as they would have to increase the majoritarian districts, it could bring bigger financial and political dividends to the party.

Most importantly, it will become easier to manage the MPs. Imagine how hard it is for the head of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to control 115 MPs- and it would have been even harder for him to control them through informal governance via then-Prime Minister Kvirikashvili. Decreasing the number of MPs will be exactly what Ivanishvili needs to control them with fewer expenses. Great idea, isn’t it? Today the governmental party is divided into a few groups, the most powerful of those led by the Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze, former PM Kvirikashvili and Ivanishvili himself. Hence, it would reduce much of a headache for him in future. This step would also serve as a prevention to Kaladze’s political ambitions.

By Zaza Jgarkava

06 September 2018 18:54