Georgian Parliament Sets up Commission on Electoral Reform

The Georgian Parliament approved setting-up of a commission working on the electoral reform during a plenary session on March 17. A total of 117 lawmakers voted in favor of establishing the temporary commission, while no MPs voted against it.

The commission was tasked to organize public discussions aimed at deliberating the bill on constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling party.

The ruling party registered a bill envisaging constitutional amendments to change the election system to fully proportional on March 11. The bill was introduced after signing the memorandum of understanding by ruling and opposition parties within the framework of the March 8 agreement. According to the bill, 2020 parliamentary polls will be held based on what is referred to as the 120/30 system, which means that 120 MPs will be elected through proportional party lists and 30 – from single-mandate constituencies (also known as the majoritarian voting system).

Despite having boycotted the legislative proceedings, given “the importance of the issue,” opposition MPs from the United National Movement (UNM) and European Georgia parties participated in the voting as a one-off and endorsed the setting-up of the commission.

“We are suspending boycotting for a single day in order to uphold our duty. This is part of the [March 8] agreement and it stipulates supporting the constitutional amendments,” Roman Gotsiridze, MP from the UNM, told journalists prior to the voting.

“Notwithstanding the boycott, the European Georgia will take part in the voting today and vote in favor of setting up the commission, provided that the ruling party also fulfills the clauses of the agreement,” Zurab Chiaberashvili, MP from the European Georgia, stated.

Guram Macharashvili, chair of the Committee for Procedural Issues and Rules, presented a nine-member list of the commission:

  • Archil Talakvadze, Chair of the Parliament;
  • Mamuka Mdinaradze, Leader of Parliamentary Majority;
  • Irakli Kobakhidze, MP from Georgian Dream;
  • Tina Bokuchava, MP from United National Movement;
  • Sergi Kapanadze, MP from European Georgia;
  • Irma Inashvili, MP from the Alliance of Patriots;
  • Mariam Jashi, MP from a parliamentary faction “Independent Deputies”;
  • Tengiz Sharmanashvili – Advisor to the Chair of the Parliament;
  • Tornike Cheishvili – Advisor to the Chair of the Parliament.

The commission held first meeting today. The members discussed the work schedule and format of the committee. They agreed that, given the fears of spreading the novel coronavirus, the public deliberations wouldbe held remotely and be broadcasted by TV channels. To this end, the commission will hold consultations with the Public Broadcaster of Georgia and the Public Broadcaster of Adjara.

On March 8, representatives of the ruling and opposition parties finally reached a consensus on changing the electoral system during a round of negotiations held at U.S. Ambassador’s residence. The agreement was unanimously endorsed by international observers and Georgia’s international partners.

Prior to reaching the deal, Georgian Dream and opposition representatives held several rounds of negotiations, though to little or no avail. The talks were kicked off after Georgian Dream deputies had voted down constitutional amendments enabling change to fully proportional elections on November 14.

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