Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Georgian Civics 101

The bus trip from Tbilisi to Akhaltsikhe provided enough time to gaze at the passing landscape along the Kura river, and to review some of my briefing material on the election that I would be observing.

European politics can be baffling to Americans, because their flavor of Democracy is based on a different model than ours. Having seen several at work close hand, I can’t say that I think any of them – ours included – is better or worse. They’re just different.

The Republic of Georgia was, until 1990, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic – one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union, with a government that consisted of a single political party – the Georgian Communist Party.

Today, Georgia has multiple political parties and a government that consists of a president elected by popular vote and a 150 seat unicameral Parliament in which 75 members are elected by proportional representation and 75 members are elected by majority vote in single-member constituencies- all of them serve for 5-year terms.

Naturally, having a Parliamentary system with multiple political parties is much more dynamic than the two-party system we have in the United States (yes, I know there are Greens and Libertarians and whatever-the-hell Ralph Nader is calling himself this year – but get serious…)

Political parties in Parliamentary systems rarely achieve enough votes in elections or hold enough seats in parliament to govern on their own – so different parties for “coalitions,” “blocks” or “alliances” to work towards common goals. This is especially common among the minor political parties who otherwise can’t gain seats in Parliament unless they combine their votes.

In Georgia, the major political parties include:
  • United National Movement

  • Labor Party

  • Republican Party

  • Christian-Democratic Party

  • Georgian Politics

  • National Movement of Radical Democrats of Georgia

  • Union of Georgian Sportsmen

  • Our Country

I stopped by to say hello, but Newt Gingrich wasn't home...

There are also several minor parties that have combined to form blocs and alliances, including:

  • United Opposition-National Council-New Rights Bloc – includes the New Rights Party, Conservative Party, Georgia's Way, Freedom, On Our Own, Party of People, Movement for United Georgia, Georgian Troupe, and National Forum

  • Traditionalists Party Bloc – includes the Our Georgia Party and the Women's Party
    New Rights Alliance – includes the Industry Will Save Georgia Party, National Democratic Party, and the Ertoba (Unity) Party

  • Christian-Democratic Alliance – not to be confused with the Christian-Democratic Party…

All this - for a nation of 4.6 million people and 3.4 million registered voters.

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