The ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition held the second round of negotiations on December 8 with the participation of foreign diplomats accredited in Tbilisi to discuss the electoral system reform.
It emerged following a four-hour discussion that upon the initiative of foreign diplomats, the sides discussed the issues of implementing reforms in the majoritarian electoral system, particularly, the possibility of creation of 10 multi-mandate constituencies, instead of present 73 single-mandate constituencies that is one of the components of the so called German model developed by the opposition.
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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).
According to the “German model,” the party votes garnered through majoritarian and proportional systems will not be summed up mechanically. 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. However, during the yesterday’s meeting the ruling party ruled out the approval of the “German model,” citing it needs constitutional amendments.
The opposition plans to send the bill on the “German model” to OSCE/ODIHR to adopt a conclusion on the compliance of the bill with the Georgian constitution.
Following the meeting, the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition politicians stressed the importance of a dialogue and made political assessments.
Ruling party assessments
“It is good that we are returning to real issues which are possible to be agreed,” Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze said after the discussion. He said that during the next meeting they will discuss possible changes to the majoritarian electoral system in frames of the current constitution, adding that the ruling party has already commenced its work based on OSCE recommendations.
Asked whether the ruling party has compromised to the opposition, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority, answered: “We have not discussed German or Georgian models… we continued to discuss the rule of distributing majoritarian mandates and the next meeting will also be related to this issue.”
Georgian Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Tea Tsulukiani said after the meeting that the ruling party was ready to discuss the initiative of establishing multi-mandate majoritarian constituencies, adding that the yesterday’s meeting failed to reach any concrete agreement “on any essential issue.” “We again explained the other side that the German model, including the model and variation registered in the Parliament, is unacceptable, as it is anti-constitutional,” Tsulukiani stressed.
Grigol Vashadze, chairman of the United National Movement, said that “no agreement has been reached at the meeting.” “Simply, we agreed on foreign diplomats’ initiative to discuss the issue of multi-mandate constituencies,” he noted, adding that he has “no positive expectations” from the next meeting. “We are getting ready for the worse,” Vashadze said.
MP Giga Bokeria of European Georgia said that “one step” was taken towards an attempt of improving the electoral system with the help of international friends. He also noted that “peaceful rallies” will continue until the negotiations with the ruling party yield a specific result.
Giorgi Vashadze of New Georgia also commented on the issue, saying that foreign diplomats compelled the ruling party “to reject its recent destructive actions in the country.” He called the yesterday’s meeting “an important success,” adding that “peaceful, non-violent protest will continue.”
Foreign diplomats’ assessments
Elizabeth Rood, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. at the U.S. Embassy to Tbilisi and Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia also made comments after the meeting and stressed the importance of continued dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
“We had a second round of dialogue in a constructive atmosphere, and we agreed that we would meet again to continue the discussion. With the encouragement of the international participants, the next discussions are expected to focus on how the majoritarian seats in Parliament are filled, and then other things can be discussed as well,” Elizabeth Rood said.
Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, also hailed the readiness of the sides to continue a dialogue, saying that the positions can be brought closer gradually, through a dialogue.
The ruling party and opposition held the first round of negotiations on November 30, but failed to achieve any concrete results. The third round is expected to be held on December 15.