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18 Oct, 2007 01:15

Less sweat getting elected to Georgia's parliament

President Mikhail Saakashvili is planning a series of changes to Georgia's electoral system. In a Monday night speech to MPs from the ruling party, Saakashvili proposed lowering the electoral threshold – the percentage of votes a party must win

“I propose, although I know this is not popular among some in the parliament, to decrease the electoral threshold to 5%, to restrict presidential powers in terms of dissolving Parliament, and to extend Parliament’s term in office from four to five years,” Mr Saakashvili said.

The announcement comes amid a tense stand-off between the government and opposition, which became united following the recent arrest of a former Defence Minister, Irakly Okruashvili, on corruption charges.

Opposition leaders dismiss the proposals, calling them too little too late, and point out that international organisations have been demanding for the threshold to be reduced for years.

But who's going to count the votes?

The opposition says that the issue of who staffs the electoral commission is more important.

On Wednesday evening a group of opposition leaders attempted to meet with the president to voice their concerns, but the head of the President’s Security team told them they’d have to make an appointment.

Experts say the new threshold will lead to more opposition representation in parliament.

“I certainly think it is not a bad thing. Whether it will have any consequences at the polling place remains to be seen. Indisputably, all else being equal, a lower threshold raises the potential representation of smaller parties,” Dr Jonathan Kulick from Foundation for Strategic and International Studies commented.  

Parliament is to discuss the issue on Thursday, and the changes will probably apply to the parliamentary elections scheduled for next autumn.