You’d think that the very least elected representatives owe their constituencies is to press Yea or Nay when bills are put down for a vote. But Georgian lawmakers absent during voting sometimes prefer to let their colleagues’ fingers do the button-pushing for them.
Granted this happens elsewhere, including the US, but rarely can one see a ghost-voting frenzy like what was recently caught on camera in the Georgian parliament by PalitraTV.
The footage, which is now making the rounds online, shows Georgian lawmakers busy pressing buttons to the left and right on behalf of their absent colleagues, in an apparent violation of parliamentary procedure.
Nor do the legislators even need to be absent. The video shows parliamentary majority leader Petre Tsiskarishvili reading a magazine, yawning and scratching his head, while his Personal Button-Pushing Assistant (fellow United National Movement MP Giorgi Imnadze) leans over and presses buttons on his behalf.
When confronted by a PalitraTV reporter, Tsiskarishvili laughed off the question about why he can't be bothered to vote himself.
It is not clear yet if courtesy-voting is a cross-party trend in Georgia, but, arguably, it would not be all surprising for a parliament member in Georgia, famous for its elaborate networks of kith and kin, to ask a friend from the opposition camp to press the button while he or she slips out: "Chemi dzma (meaning "dude," approximately), just push 'No' on my desk every time you press 'Yes' on yours," the request might go from one guy MP to another. "And see you at Tako's birthday party tonight."
Based on parliamentary rules, such truancy is supposed to result in the one-time withholding of the parliamentarian's monthly salary (on average, 2,000 lari, or just over $1,200). Unfortunately for taxpayers, however, the rule does not appear to be enforced. With Georgia's parliament scheduled to swell to 190 seats next year, that could mean even more ghost button-pushers.
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