A television announcer opens IRI's initial youth debate series in Tbilisi, Georgia.IRI sponsored a live television debate earlier this month among youth representatives of the ruling United National Movement, and the opposition Christian Democrats.  The focus of the debate was the constitutional reform package that is currently being considered in the Georgian Parliament.  Discussion was opened with remarks from John Bass, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia.

United National Movement defended the package of current reforms, which transfer many powers from the President to the Prime Minister. Christian Democrats argued for even further decentralization of political power.

Five representatives from each party took part in the debate.  The debaters gave their arguments and questions in front of a studio audience and a panel of experts.  These experts graded the teams on how well they constructed their arguments, technique and teamwork.  At the conclusion of the debate, members of the audience were given paper ballots in order to vote for one of the two teams.  Observers were present during this process, in order to ensure a transparent vote count.

Broadcast live on national television, viewers at home also had the opportunity to caste their vote by text message.  At the end of the evening, the studio audience voted for Christian Democrats 23-14, while viewers at home voted for the United National Movement with 60 percent of the vote.

The debate allowed for a frank discussion about which reforms could be implemented to further increase transparency and greater democratic development in Georgia.  The high level of attention the debates by the political parties, as well as the viewing audience, has the potential to spur greater public debate about possible parliamentary reforms.  IRI is planning to sponsor nine more televised debates in Georgia in the coming months.

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