Georgian PM fired

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has dismissed Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, who had been in office less than a year.

According to the BBC, Saakashvili “did not say why the decision was made.”

Georgia has a president-parliamentary system, so there is no question that the PM is a subordinate of the president. The PM also must maintain the confidence of a majority in parliament.

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Thanks to Boravy, one of my students, for the tip.

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Georgia’s parties and the election boycott

I am not going to weigh in on the Russia-Georgia war, partly because it is well outside my areas of professional competence, partly because it is just depressing, and partly because I have seen the sort of comments other blogs are getting ((Any comments expressing support for the military actions of either side will be summarily deleted.)) since this simmering conflict broke into the world’s headlines on (not coincidentally) the day the Olympics ((Another event I am staying away from.)) started.

However, just before the fighting erupted, I received, via a Google news alert, the following item about the aftermath of the (partial) opposition boycott of Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections. It is interesting inasmuch as it provides some insights into the domestic political situation facing the Georgian government in recent months. It also notes challenges parties might face in coordinated action (including election boycotts) in electoral systems that are at least partly nominal (such as Georgia’s MMM system), as well as the problems multiple (small) opposition parties have coordinating with one another:

Some Candidates Against Boycott (Civil Georgia, 24 May 2008 ((Not sure why I just got it. Maybe I had had it for a while, but not since May.))). Excerpted here, without further comment:

Two MP candidates from two separate opposition parities have said they will join the new parliament, despite their respective parties’ announcement in favor of boycott.

Roman Marsagishvili, who won a majoritarian MP contest in the Kazbegi single-mandate constituency under the Republican Party ticket, said he would join the new parliament. “I am a majoritarian MP and I will defend the interests of the [Kazbegi] constituency. I am not interested in anything else. I am interested in the interests of people of my constituency, who elected me,” he told Rustavi 2 TV on May 24.

Although the Republican Party has failed to clear 5% threshold to endorse [elect?] its MP candidates under the party-list system, two of its majoritarian MP candidates won the elections – another in Tsageri single-mandate constituency. The Republican Party leaders have said they would welcome decision by those opposition parties, which have cleared 5% threshold, to boycott the new parliament.

Once popular singer and songwriter, Nugzar Ergemlidze, who is number four in the Labor Party’s list of MP candidates and who has never been engaged in any political activities before, also said on May 24 that he did not agree with boycott, although his party leader, Shalva Natelashvili, said on May 23 that he would join the nine-party opposition bloc’s decision not to enter in the new parliament.

The third group, the Christian-Democratic Party, which has also cleared the 5% threshold, has yet to announce its final decision. However, the party leader, Giorgi Targamadze, has already suggested that his party would not favor the boycott.

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MMM games in Armenia

Armenia uses a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system, in which there are 41 single-seat districts (elected by plurality) and 91 national closed-list seats (allocated by PR, but with no consideration of the single-seat results). In the most recent election (12 May 2007), there were widespread chrges of fraud, particularly in the single-seat districts (SSDs). Now one of the disputed districts will have a by-election, and one of the candidates for the seat will be the top-ranked candidate in the list tier for the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, which won 7 list seats and no SSDs.

Perhaps this has happened before somewhere, but it certainly is unusual to have a sitting list member running in a nominal-tier by-election. If the legislator, Raffi Hovannisian, were to win, the party would increase its seat total to eight, given the noncompensatory nature of the PR tier. Presumably Hovannisian’s current seat would be taken by the candidate at the no. 8 rank on the list from the last election, which is standard practice when a member elected in a list system resigns (even if in this case the member would be resigning his seat to take a different seat!).

The government-backed “independent” candidate in the district in question, who had originally been declared the winner of the 12 May race, Khachik Manukian, is running again. So are two other candidates named Khachik Manukian.

The two men were clearly told to run for parliament by one of his rivals keen to damages his electoral chances. One of the obscure Manukians is a 75-year-old unemployed man, while the other works as a costume maker in a state theater in Yerevan.

Ah, the value of name recognition under nominal voting!

The French bill against denying the Armenian genocide

Much is being made this morning of the bill passed by the French National Assembly that would make it a crime in France to deny that Armenians suffered a “genocide” at the hands of Turkish forces in 1915.

Less noted has been the following fact, buried deep in the BBC story:

It passed by 106 votes to 19.

The French National Assembly has 577 members. That’s a lot of abstentions!

The premier and cabinet opposed the bill, but made it a “free vote” so that normal rules of party discipline did not apply.

The bill would still have to pass the Senate, which would seem rather unlikely. (The Senate is indirectly elected by local assemblies.) The BBC says the bill also requires approval of the President, but this is incorrect; in France, the president has no veto.