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CSOs, Ombudsperson Call on Parliament to Approve Constitutional Amendment

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Local civil society organizations and the Georgian Public Defender called on the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority to support the constitutional amendment envisaging the abolition of the majoritarian electoral system for the 2020 parliamentary elections and transfer to fully proportional system.

The ruling party-initiated constitutional amendment had to be discussed with its first reading on November 12, but several majoritarian MPs, including those lawmakers, who have co-sponsored the bill, demanded to postpone the voting and discuss its expediency at the parliamentary majority’s session.

The plenary session reopened at 12 noon today, following the parliamentary majority’s meeting, which was also attended by Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the Georgian Dream party.

ISFED Statement

In a statement released today, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) noted that “holding the 2020 elections through the proportional system is essential for the country’s democratic consolidation.”

“The proportional elections allow to develop multiparty European-style democracy and revive political process. Making an amendment to the electoral system will be an important step towards weakening unilateral control over state institutions, restoring checks and balances and reducing polarization,” the statement reads.

ISFED called on the ruling party and its lawmakers to keep their promise and support the constitutional bill on holding the 2020 parliamentary elections through fully proportional system. It also called on “parliamentary opposition to consolidate its efforts and vote for supporting the proportional electoral system.”

GYLA Statement

Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) also called for adopting the constitutional amendment on transition to fully proportional system. In a statement released on November 13, GYLA noted that “mixed electoral system is the key obstacle for Georgia’s democratic development.”

“We have heard arguments opposing the changes and we want to make it clear: considering the existing context, they do not have a sufficient theoretical ground to overweigh the benefits of holding the 2020 parliamentary elections through the proportional system,” the statement reads.

GYLA called on Georgian MPs “to keep the promise given to the public and vote for the constitutional amendment.”

TI Georgia Statement

Transparency International (TI) Georgia also called for the approval of the constitutional amendment.

In a statement released on November 12, TI Georgia said that the statements made by Georgian Dream majoritarian MPs against the constitutional amendment “arouse a legitimate doubt in the public that it occurs deliberately not to hold the upcoming elections through the proportional system.”   

“There is a broad consensus on the issue in the Georgian public – transition to the proportional system should significantly increase the quality of democracy in the country,” TI Georgia noted.

“We call on the ruling party to keep its promise and support the initiative that will avert political tensions in the country,” it added.

Public Defender’s Statement

In a statement released today, the Georgian Public Defender noted that “the readiness of the ruling party to introduce the proportional electoral system by the 2020 parliamentary elections and the initiative of 93 members of the parliamentary majority to amend the constitution were an undoubted step forward in terms of protection of political rights of the country and its citizens.”

The Public Defender called on the Parliament “to support the transition to a proportional electoral system by the 2020 parliamentary elections, which will promote political pluralism and proportional representation of people’s will and election results in the Parliament.”

On June 24, the ruling party announced that parliamentary elections in 2020 will be fully proportional with zero threshold. The announcement 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 was one of the main demands of protesters.

Earlier, on June 13, the opposition parties submitted the constitutional initiative on transferring to the proportional election system to the Parliament, but the ruling party insisted 2020 elections to be held under existing mixed (proportional and majoritarian) system and that fully proportional elections would be held from 2024.

On November 12, the Parliament of Georgia discussed the bills submitted by both the opposition and ruling parties. The opposition’s bill failed to garner enough votes and the ruling party-sponsored bill was postponed at the request of majoritarian MPs.

The support of at least three fourths (113 MPs) of sitting lawmakers is needed to adopt the constitutional law in three requisite hearings. The ruling party has lost the constitutional majority in the Parliament; so, it will need the opposition’s support to endorse the proportional system from 2020.

The parliamentary opposition reiterated from the very beginning that it is ready to support the ruling party-sponsored bill on transition to fully proportional system from 2020.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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