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Georgian Dream, Opposition Parties to Meet Tomorrow upon Foreign Diplomats’ Initiative

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Amid ongoing protests in the capital triggered by the Parliament’s decision to vote down the constitutional amendment on transition to the proportional electoral system from 2020, foreign diplomats accredited in Tbilisi called on the ruling and opposition parties to hold a dialogue on November 30 to defuse current tensions.

Reports about the planned meeting emerged after ex-Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze confirmed to reporters on November 29 that the ruling party and opposition will hold a discussion in the first half of Saturday with the participation of foreign diplomats. He also noted that the opposition-proposed solution to hold 2020 polls with the so called German electoral model, will be among the issues put on the agenda.

Also on November 29, the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition presented a draft of the German model adapted to current political situation in Georgia. About 30 political subjects signed it. They deny Georgian Dream’s arguments that their model contradicts the constitution and plan to send it to the Venice Commission for its opinion.

Opposition and legal experts say that the so called “German model” – a variant of the majoritarian system tied to the proportional vote results – does not require a quorum of 113 votes (of sitting 150 MPs) needed for the constitutional amendments, since it can be enacted through changing the election code (with simple majority of 76 votes).

The “German model” would see the 2020 polls held – as it is now – through the mixed system (with 73 lawmakers being majoritarians and 77 being elected through proportional party lists). However, the rule of assigning the majoritarian mandates would change – it will be linked to the proportional vote results, preventing any party getting more seats in the parliament, than the share of votes received in the proportional vote.

Ex-Speaker Kobakhidze and the ruling Georgian Dream party say the proposed model “contradicts” the Georgian constitution.

Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority, also stressed the noncompliance of the German model with the constitution, saying that “the issue has been closed.” “If there is any argument to prove that we are wrong, they [the opposition] can present it tomorrow. I think, it will be the failure of their arguments,” Mdinaradze said.

Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani also noted today that the ruling party will not discuss any changes to the electoral legislation, noting that Georgian Dream will again explain to the opposition that it “does not comply with the constitution.”

Representatives of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) advisory body for legal affairs, are expected to attend the tomorrow’s meeting.

The press service of the CoE told Civil.ge that a delegation from the Venice Commission consisting of one of the Commission’s member and the Executive Secretary, Thomas Markert “will be in Tbilisi to take part in a round-table on electoral reform with the participation of majority and opposition parties of the Parliament.”

Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, also stressed the importance of dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party. He visited the legislature on November 29 and met with Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze and new Chair of the European Integration Committee, Davit Songulashvili.

James Appathurai, the Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, also wrote on his Facebook today that “it is important that there is dialogue to move beyond the current impasse.”

“NATO (and I) [are] watching events in Georgia closely and with concern… I’m encouraged by reports of an upcoming meeting between the government and the opposition. Georgia has a strong and vibrant democracy, and that should be demonstrated again in finding a consensual way forward,” he stated.

Civil rights activists plan to gather at the venue of the meeting and hold a protest rally to pressure the ruling party to back the electoral changes.

The Parliament’s November 14 decision to vote down the constitutional amendment envisaging transition to fully proportional electoral system triggered strong criticism from civil society organizations and opposition parties, as well as prompted countrywide protests.

Despite protests, Georgian Dream claims that the electoral system will not be revised and the 2020 parliamentary elections will be held through the mixed electoral system.

Importantly,  Kakha Kaladze, the Secretary General of the ruling Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party, said on November 25 that the ruling party “treats with understanding” the proposal voiced by its majoritarian MPs to hold the parliamentary elections through fully majoritarian system. This came as dramatic change, since the Constitution – backed by the GD – envisages transfer to the fully proportional system starting 2024 polls. 

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

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