MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of Georgian Dream’s parliamentary majority, said at a news briefing on December 13 that a compromise was found with the ruling party majoritarian MPs, that would see them withdraw their proposal for the fully majoritarian elections in 2020, in exchange for amending the Constitution, so that “any possible snap elections till 2024 are again held through the mixed system.”
This is the latest development involving the ruling party majoritarians – MPs elected from single-mandate constituencies, who have – according to the Georgian Dream leaders – blocked the initiative to pass to the fully proportional polling system from 2020. The opposition, as well as some of the former Georgian Dream MPs who quit the party over this issue, decry the confrontation of the majoritarians with party leadership as a farce, played out with tacit or overt approval of Bidzina Ivanishvili, GD founder, leader and donor.
The protesters have hit the streets over the GD decision to backtrack on their commitment concerning the proportional polls in 2020. A motley crew of political parties have joined together to propose an compromise – so called “German Model” – which could reduce the possibility of the ruling party getting a super-majority even in situations of relatively low public support, which the current, mixed system proved so prone to.
Although initially the GD leadership decried this proposal as “anti-Constitutional”, they have joined the negotiating table at the insistence of Georgia’s international partners. No substantive progress has been made after two rounds of meetings, although the GD delegation seems to have started to consider some elements of opposition proposal, such as multi-mandate majoritarian districts.
In the meantime, the majoritarians have filed a proposal to move to the fully majoritarian polling from 2020. The ruling party leadership has been more forthcoming in negotiating this matter. Once again, the opposition says the proposal is a decoy, aimed at creating a sham political process to distract the media and Georgia’s partners from real issues, or at gaining leverage in talks with opposition, through portraying the majoritarians’ proposal as a bogeyman.
This skepticism of the majoritarians’ real capacity to stand up to Ivanishvili is vindicated by the fact, that far from being frozen out, the so called “rebel” majoritarians were appointed to the vacant Committee chair postings recently. It is also important, that many of these MPs have never spoken in the chamber before their “rebellion” let alone submitted a legislative initiative.
What did GD cook up?
According to the current constitution, the majoritarian electoral system should be abolished after 2020 and the next parliamentary elections should be held through fully proportional electoral system, whether it happens following the expiration of the 2020 parliament mandate in 2024, or through snap elections.
MP Mdinaradze said the majority of GD colleagues managed to talk down the majoritarians from demanding fully majoritarian polls in 2020, thus upending the system. But, according to Mdinaradze, “the parliamentary majority took into consideration the opinion of majoritarian MPs, according to which, after 2020 elections [held through the current, mixed sustem] the issue of holding snap elections through the proportional system would be raised constantly [by the opposition] and that will create the feeling of constant instability, tempting MPs to cause artificial crises.”
Accepting this risk as real, Mdinaradze said it was agreed by his colleagues that in exchange for majoritarian MPs withdrawing their proposal to hold 2024 elections through fully majoritarian electoral system, the Georgian Dream will offer constitutional guarantees that the mixed electoral system will be maintained till 2024, through the constitutional amendment stating that even if the snap elections were held after 2020, they will again be run though a mixed system.
“If we do not provide this guarantee, majoritarian MPs will demand a plebiscite [to take place] in parallel with the 2020 parliamentary elections on transition to fully majoritarian system,” he added.
But can they do it?
The political relevance of Mdinaradze’s remains dubious in the current political context. It remains an open question however, how exactly does GD intend to assure the required Constitutional change, since they no longer have requisite 3/4 majority, after some of their MPs have quit the party and the majority.
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