TBILISI, DFWatch – Just as the government is getting ready for a nationwide tour to promote its new ten point plan for developing the country, the opposition Christian Democrats say the plan should first be discussed in parliament.
“Parliament is a place, where the main positions should be heard, especially when it comes to issues like the country’s development,” Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian Democrats says. He emphasizes that it is very important to hold debates regarding the government’s action plan.
The Christian Democrats Monday made a formal request to have such a debate, which they have a right to according to the rules. The government can’t refuse, but the parliamentary speaker promises to solve the issue at the next session on November 22.
According to Vepkhvadze, the ruling party is preparing a nationwide tour to promote its ’10 point plan’ to the population, village by village. But the Christian Democrats think it would be better if the government had visited those villages to learn about their problems, and not to promote a plan that is already made.
Vepkhvadze also points out that it would be an advantage if members of parliament also got a chance to know what the government has planned.
“It’s inconceivable to talk about the budget and not to hold debates regarding the government’s action plan. It’s important for the government to listen to the politicians’ critical position regarding this issue, before they present it to the people. So this type of debates are important,” he says.
The government hasn’t refused to debate the 10 point plan. But Zurab Melikishvili from the ruling party noted that the government is ready to travel not only to village by village, but town by town, street by street, and this way present the plans to the population. It’s unclear to him why it is necessary to hold debates about it.
But David Bakradze, parliament speaker called for the majority and the minority to come up with a date for the debate and noted that the date will finally be set at a plenary session on November 22.
The issue of political debates is regulated by rules for parliamentary procedure. Specifically, in political debates the majority and minority are given 45 minutes each to talk, whereas each fraction leader and the speaker of parliament get 15 minutes, the deputy speaker 10 minutes, and MPs, who are not a member of any fraction 5 minutes.
Each group may distribute alloted time among themselves, but the total alloted time may not be increased.
The first time this system was used was last year, again due to a request by the Christian Democrats. The debate was followed by a quite large response.
Levan Vepkhvadze hopes that there will be a debate on the important issue of the government’s social-economic views. Civil society will listen to the government’s position and the opposition’s arguments, and will then be able to draw its own conclusions.
“I focus on this because unfortunately, controversies in parliament are not appropriately broadcasted on the so-called national channels. But the public has better access to these channels. There was high profile broadcasting last year and we must use this chance, because democracy is a battle opinions and we will have an opportunity to express ourselves to people,” Vepkhvadze says.