A group of eleven Georgian civil society organizations (CSOs), including the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, released a joint letter on September 6, calling on the ruling Georgian Dream party to wait until the Venice Commission publishes its final opinion on Georgia’s draft constitution before putting it to vote at the Parliament.
The letter comes four days after the statement of Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio, who said the Venice Commission was ready to issue a new opinion on the draft constitution and called on the Parliament of Georgia, “before finally adopting the revised draft, to make changes in the light of this opinion and of the dialogue with all Georgian political parties.”
“We urge the parliamentary majority to take into account the Venice Commission calls and wait until it publishes its final opinion,” the CSOs wrote in their letter, apparently, in reference to the statements of ruling party members that only minor technical changes would be introduced at the third hearing of the draft constitution, which, effectively, rules out major content-related changes in the constitution, including the opposition-pushed and the Venice Commission-endorsed introduction of the fully proportional electoral system for 2020.
CSOs added that such statements contradict to the earlier pledges of the ruling party leaders that they would take into account all Venice Commission recommendations. “Failing to deliver on the promises and deceiving partners will, of course, be negatively perceived by them,” reads the letter.
The organizations also noted that maintaining the existing mixed electoral system for next parliamentary elections “does not serve the country’s objectives in terms of its democratic advancement and the establishment of healthy political environment, which is a necessary precondition for parliaments with multi-party representation and high legitimization.”
“The absence of basic political consensus and the single-handed decision threatens the country’s prospect for stable development,” CSOs also noted, adding that the constitution “is a document that should enjoy public consent and it is important that its spirit is shared by wide layers of the society.”
Tamar Chugoshvili, deputy parliamentary speaker, spoke on the matter on September 6, saying the Venice Commission is aware that the ruling party plans to put the draft constitution to vote in late September.
“The Venice Commission has received the text that was adopted with second hearing, and we have agreed that we will receive the preliminary opinion [on it] before the third hearing,” Chugoshvili stated and added that the preliminary opinion will be made public and discussions will be held on it before the Parliament’s vote at its plenary session.