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Reactions: Ruling Party, Opposition on Ivanishvili’s Announcement

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Georgian politicians have assessed the recent announcement of the ruling party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili that upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020 will be fully proportional with so called “natural threshold”(the number of seats in the legislature – 150 – divided by the number of votes cast in a given election)  to enter the parliament.

Ruling Party reactions

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze was one of the first to respond to Ivanishvili’s statements, saying the party leader made “an unprecedented decision,” which will give political parties “more opportunities to be widely represented in the Georgian Parliament.”

“Naturally, we have discussed this issue within the team and our team fully supports it. It was on the Georgian Dream’s initiative, that alongside the move towards the parliamentary system, we decided to have the proportional election system from 2024, that would facilitate further development of political parties in Georgia and ensure their more diverse representation in the Parliament. This decision [on the date] has been adjusted now,” he said.

Speaking about the ongoing protest rallies, Bakhtadze said he was “glad to see that we have young people in Georgia who are willing to assume the responsibility and that the society has a healthy need of new faces in our political life.”

According to the Prime Minister, Ivanishvili’s initiative will ensure that the diversity of preferences of Georgian citizens are reflected by the Georgian Parliament. “At the current stage of development, this may have its negative side effects in terms of effective governance, but in the long run, our institutions will become stronger, and that will help Georgia to better cope with challenges,” PM Bakhtadze said.

Tbilisi Mayor, GDDG Secretary General Kakha Kaladze also welcomed the decision to hold 2020 parliamentary elections fully proportional and expressed confidence that under the new system, the ruling party would maintain “huge support” of the citizens. He then noted that GDDG is “ready for dialogue with all those political parties that see the future and development of our country within the framework of the constitution.”

“I am sure that a lot of political parties, who desire to be represented in the Georgian Parliament tomorrow, should enter the dialogue and that we should do our utmost to resolve this protest at the table of negotiations,” he said.

Kaladze reiterated his earlier position that the ruling party “assumes full responsibility for the developments” on June 20, when Russian MP Sergei Gavrilov addressed the delegates in Russian from the Georgian Parliament Speaker’s seat.

According to Tbilisi Mayor, GDDG has condemned this fact in the strongest possible terms, and Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze “took a dignified step and resigned.”

Referring to the opposition, Kaladze spoke of those “destructive leaders, who were present at the rally and who called for confrontation and for storming the Parliament building,” and said “full political responsibility [for violence] falls onto them.”

“As for their legal responsibility, adequate response will follow. Not a single case where disproportionate force was used would remain without a proper reaction,” Kaladze stated.

First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Tamar Chugoshvili echoed other GDDG leaders, saying “the decision made by the Georgian Dream majority and the political council is the beginning of revolutionary changes in Georgian political system.”

“Quite soon we will see very serious changes and a different political reality,” she said, adding that GDDG will start negotiations with “all political forces and individuals who respect constitutional requirements.”

Chugoshvili then noted that the first day of Tbilisi protests saw “very regrettable developments and calls for overthrow of the state institutions,” and that “it was impossible to avoid the use of force” under the circumstances.

“The most tragic in all these developments was the necessity to use force just because of those irresponsible and criminal actions that were taking place during the rally,” she said, adding that all perpetrators would be held accountable. “As far as the use of force is concerned, legal response will be made to all those cases, where disproportionate force was used,” Chugoshvili concluded.

Opposition reactions

Elene Khoshtaria of European Georgia, who was among those opposition MPs who blocked the Parliament’s podium in protest to Russian MP Gavrilov’s presence on June 20, said Ivanishvili’s decision is “a victory” of the protesters, who have “managed to force the Georgian Dream to step back and achieved the [move to the] proportional electoral system [in 2020].”

“You told each politician and each future government that not a single case of disparaging our society would remain unanswered. So, your principled struggle has yielded the first result,” Khoshtaria said at today’s news briefing.

However, she added that Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia “has neither moral, nor legal or political right to be the Interior Minister. He is one of the those persons, who has caused this crisis and is responsible for it.,” the MP Khoshtaria stated.

Grigol Vashadze of United National Movement, that leads United Opposition also said at a briefing on June 24 that it is “impossible to hold normal, democratic elections” while “falsifier” Gakharia is in office.

According to Vashadze, resignationo f Gakharia it is the “demand of entire population”. He also echoed the other demands of Tbilisi rallies, saying that protesters who were detained on June 20 and sentenced to brief prison terms for disturbance of public order “should be immediately released,” while those law enforcers who used excessive force – detained.

Grigol Vashadze also called for snap parliamentary polls, adding that the current composition of election commissions can not ensure democratic elections.

Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili called Ivanishvili’s proposal a “swindle”. Saakashvili says Ivanishvili “should dismiss” Gakharia, release the detained protesters and immediately call snap elections, held under proportional system.

Saakashvili said Ivanishvili “is in panic,” and by introducing the changes in election system, “wants to keep Gakharia, the incumbent election commission”, and make sure that until scheduled polls in October 2020 all opposition is silenced, including Rustavi 2. During those elections, says Saakashvili, Ivanishvili “will put Georgia into his pocket” by abusing the natural threshold so that marginal parties – “Russian projects”, and the parties that are “bought off” by Ivanishvili – enter the legislature.

“Rallies should be held countrywide and Ivanishvili should be distanced from Georgian politics… His executioners – Gakharia, [Head of the State Security Service Vakhtang] Gomelauri and all others should resign and be held accountable,” Saakashvili stated.

Over twenty opposition parties, including the United National Movement (UNM), European Georgia, Free Democrats, the New Rights, the Republicans, and the Labour Party, had submitted more than 200 thousand citizens’ signatures to the parliament on June 13, calling for holding parliamentary elections through the proportional system starting from 2020, instead of 2024, as foreseen by the Constitution.

Ivanishvili’s announcement that upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020 will be fully proportional with zero threshold followed a four-day protest in Georgia, triggered by the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the parliament’s plenary chamber on June 20.

Holding of 2020 parliamentary elections through proportional party-lists, as well as the release of those protesters who were detained that night and sentenced to brief prison terms for disturbance of public order and detention of those law enforcers who exceeded their duties, were among the major demands of the peaceful demonstrators.

They also demand resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, held responsible for the police crackdown on the night of 20 July that left 240 people injured few of them gravely. However, the ruling party leader did not say a word about Gakharia’s responsibility.

Protest rallies will resume today at 7pm at the Rustaveli Avenue in front of the parliament of Georgia.

For more follow our tag on Tbilisi protests

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