The Streetwise Political Dictate


There is nothing to worry about – our political system is very much alive and kicking, and it is also palpable and vibrant enough to rule the country. The only kink it suffers is that it has tended to function under open skies in the last 30 years. Otherwise, all is OK with it, based on a regular political dichotomy: the ruling force rules and the opposition does its portion of resistance and contest. Other nations practice the same type of politicking in their own countries, so nothing terribly different from the rest of the world is taking place in Georgia as I see it.

The triviality of our streetwise political life is clear and present: we are once again doing politics al fresco, overwhelmed by our political fluids and disgruntlements. This time, the issue in question, which was moved from the habitual parliamentary floor to the protest-ridden Rustaveli Avenue of Tbilisi, is the difficulty of making a choice between the two different electoral systems, proportional and majoritarian. Proportional . . . majoritarian . . . even the terms sound a little weird but they are explicable. A proportional election means electing a legislature member as part of the bunch, in other words, based on the party list, giving a politician who might be anything but a real politician (this said not about them all, of course) a chance. The majoritarian electoral system is like electing an American senator or a congressman on individual basis, independently from a party list of presumable candidates of parliamentary membership, but still associated with a certain political power.

In a word, the system is peculiar and complicated, but whatever it is, it still happens to be functional. The problem is that part of the Georgian parliament wants a mixed system and part of it will go for only the proportional one. And the electorate, who has a final say in the elections, has no idea which is better. Hence the confrontation, for starters on parliamentary premises, and consequently, in front of the same building, in the street!

The entire united opposition is for the proportional system, thinking it guarantees the most optimal compatibility between the cast votes and the received legislative mandates. A couple of weeks ago, the Georgian legislature was on the verge of voting for the proportional system but right at the eleventh hour, the voting majoritarians preponderated towards the mixed system again. As a result, the introduction of proportional representation, once casually promised by the ruling party, went bust.

Now the leaders of oppositional parties maintain that they were sold a lemon and want to settle that account with the ruling party by means of prolonged and wide-range street manifestations, persistently demanding the fulfillment of the made promise.

I am the only one though who has been nursing a tricky unanswered question in the last ten years: why not the majoritarian system, like in America? When I ask this question, the only reaction I get from politicians and political experts is shrugged shoulders and unclear, deviating responses. How about fulltime dictatorship? is an even older question of mine. Openly declared, classic, sincere dictatorship! Would it be so bad? Democracy is not a ubiquitously working political system. Democracy needs time to mature within the hearts and minds and the guts of the nation. Are we already there? Or, do we still need to go the additional mile? Yes, I am a captive of my own sarcasm, and this is awful, because I have been dreaming of squeezing this country’s political process somewhere under a solid roof, but the dream has yet to be realized. And this is happening because the political process here is extremely recalcitrant, wriggling in the hands of several generations of politicians in post-soviet Georgia, instigating the already customary political dictate heard in outdoor demonstrations.

By Nugzar B. Ruhadze

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28 November 2019 18:58