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Parliament Once Again Postpones Voting on Constitutional Amendment

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Following two-day noisy discussions, the Parliament of Georgia once again postponed the voting on the ruling party-sponsored constitutional amendment envisaging transition to fully proportional electoral system. The MPs will vote for the constitutional amendment on November 14.

According to the bill, the mixed electoral system will be abolished and from 2020, parliamentary elections will be held through fully proportional system with the so called natural threshold. In addition, the bill preempts the parties from setting up election blocs for the parliamentary elections. 

First day of parliamentary discussions  

The Parliament launched discussions on the constitutional amendment at its plenary session on November 12. The session was marred by mutual accusations from the opposition and the ruling party. The Georgian Dream members accused MPs of the National Movement of attacking the church and the Patriarch.

The parliamentary opposition accused the Georgian Dream lawmakers of creating artificial tensions in the chamber, saying that the parliamentary majority was preparing for voting the bill down.

Later on November 12, Dimitri Khundadze, lawmaker from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said that he had some questions regarding the abolition of the majoritarian system, calling for discussing the issue separately within the parliamentary majority.

Another majoritarian MP, Kakha Okriashvili also expressed the same position, saying that there were differences in the ruling party with a part of majoritarian MPs not supporting the constitutional amendment. Other Georgian Dream lawmakers also confirmed that, but vowed that the ruling party remains committed to its pledge and that it will support transition to the proportional system. Eventually, the Parliament postponed voting for November 13.

At its yesterday’s session, the Parliament also discussed an alternative bill sponsored by the opposition, which unlike the ruling party’s bill, envisages introduction of a 3% threshold and setting up of election blocs. The bill, submitted by Mamuka Katsitadze, leader of the New Rights party, was voted down. Only 32 lawmakers supported it while 55 voted against. 113 votes are needed to approve the amendment.

A rally dubbed “Do not dare to vote down” was held outside the Parliament building on November 12. The organizers explained that they would not allow Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling party, to do a trick and vote down the bill on proportional elections.

Second day of parliamentary discussions

The second day of discussions on the constitutional amendment continued in the Parliament amid mutual accusations between the majority and minority groups today.

Prior to the parliamentary discussions, the majority members gathered at the Georgian Dream office to discuss the issue.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling party, also attended the meeting. Following the meeting, Dimitri Khundadze, Georgian Dream lawmaker, said that part of the majority lawmakers were preparing to vote the bill down.

However, speaking with reporters following the meeting, MP Gia Volski said that the ruling team would do its best to ensure that the bill gets the ruling party endorsement.

Irakli Kobakhidze, former Parliament Speaker and one of the co-authors of the bill, spoke about pros and cons of the bill and also responded to opponents’ criticism, accusing them of attempts to overthrow the government and even spared no effort to insult his former teammates.

Opposition representatives dedicated much of their time to criticism against the ruling party and called on the majority group to keep their promise and support transition to the proportional electoral system.

Following the discussions and separate lawmakers’ speeches, MP Gia Volski called for postponing the voting for November 14, requesting the opposition to support his initiative.

Lawmakers are expected to vote for the constitutional amendment tomorrow, following one more meeting of the ruling party MPs at Georgian Dream’s office.

Positions taken by opposition parties and CSOs                 

Today’s plenary session was held amid protests outside the Parliament. The protesters called on the lawmakers to keep their promise, otherwise warned about large scale demonstrations if the majority votes the bill down.          

Local civil society organizations and the Public Defender also called on the Parliament to support the bill.

Meanwhile, representatives of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition gathered at Labor Party’s office and discussed the steps they should take in case the parliament will not support the bill. 

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

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