A week after Bidzina Ivanishvili, the chairman of the ruling party, said that upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020 will be fully proportional with natural threshold, the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party initiated a constitutional amendment on July 1.
The amendment is to be made to the transitional provision of the new Constitution which was adopted in September 2017. This transitional provision says the current, mixed election system will remain in force for 2020 general elections, thus delaying until 2024 the entry into force of the Constitution provision that foresees a proportional system with 5% threshold.
According to the proposed Constitutional amendment, the 2020 elections will be fully proportional. In addition, so called natural barrier (0.67%) will be introduced. This means all those parties, which garner a sufficient number of votes to get at least one MP mandate, will be able to send their representative to the legislature. Since this change is proposed only in the transitional provision, it means that the 5% threshold foreseen by the Constitution will remain in force for 2024 elections, unless new Constitutional amendment is initiated.
During the presentation, which was also attended by foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia, representatives of some political parties and civil society organizations, GDGD’s Secretary General Kakha Kaladze stressed the need for “public and political consensus, sharing responsibility and pluralistic environment” to cope with the challenges facing the country.
“I would like to ask all political entities to continue their political activities in this mood. We have a relevant platform and we stand ready to discuss all these issues and nuances thoroughly,” Kaladze noted.
Speaking about the constitutional amendment, Georgian Dream’s Executive Secretary Irakli Kobakhidze, who recently resigned the post of the Parliament speaker amid public protests, said that the proposed amendment “needs consensus among political parties… we are ready to promote such consensus in the Georgian Parliament.” He also noted that along with constitutional amendments, the work will continue over improvement of electoral legislation that “will ultimately promote the consolidation of party- and political systems.”
The parliamentary opposition did not attend the presentation, but expressed readiness to support legislative amendments needed to enact the proportional election system.
“We will definitely participate in discussing this legislative initiative to bring the step taken by Georgian Dream under public pressure to its logical conclusion,” MP Irakli Abesadze of European Georgia said.
“Georgian Dream has been defeated by the public, by those people, who are today protesting Georgian Dream’s misconduct and crimes in the street,” MP Roman Gotsiridze of the United National Movement said. “The National Movement faction will support any option of transfer to the proportional system,” he added, alluding to skepticism of some of his party members and observers about the “natural threshold”.
Some critics argue, that the “natural threshold” could allow fringe radicals to enter the parliament, while other fear the ruling party would resort to voter bribing to allow a swarm of artificially created, pro-governmental political entities to gain seats.
The law says parliamentary discussions should be preceded by public discussions and the Parliament has to set up a relevant commission for this purpose.The ruling party lost the constitutional majority in the Parliament several months ago; so, it will need the opposition’s support to endorse the proportional system from 2020.
The Parliament will start discussions on the Constitutional amendment during its autumn session, starting September.