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Georgian Parliament Approves Constitutional Changes in Second Reading

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On June 23, the Georgian Parliament endorsed constitutional amendments on electoral reform in the second reading with 115 votes in favor and 3 against.

The bill cleared the first reading at a special parliamentary session on Sunday, June 21.

The constitutional changes foresee introducing a new composition of the legislative body based on 120 proportional and 30 majoritarian seats and fixing the election threshold at 1 % of votes. The bill will also enact a constraint barring any single party that receives less than 40 % of votes from claiming a majority of seats in the Parliament, and hence, from forming the government on its own.

Lawmakers from the United National Movement, demanding the release of “political prisoner” Giorgi Rurua, were absent from the session.

European Georgia MPs, unlike the first reading, refrained from taking part in the vote, for they also demanded setting free of Rurua, the shareholder of opposition-leaning Mtavari Arkhi TV, as a precondition to support the bill in consecutive sessions.

Kakha Okriashvili and Aleksandre Erkvania, MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream party, as well as MP Bidzina Gegidze (elected on GD’s slate who then left the party) voted against the proposed changes.

UNM deputy Roman Gotsiridze said his party was sticking to its “own principles” and did not lend support to the bill. “Our key demand was to fulfill the second and no less important clause [of March 8 Deal] regarding ceasing political persecution in the country,” he stated.

Giga Bokeria, a lawmaker from the European Georgia party, welcomed passage of the amendments in the second reading, stressing that Rurua’s release should precede the third reading in order to “reach a normalized situation.”

“Ivanishvili will pay the price for failure to fulfill any of [March 8 Deal’s] terms,” Bokeria told journalists.

GD executive secretary Irakli Kobakhidze said the UNM and European Georgia breached the March 8 Agreement by not participating in the voting – “this is a direct and grave violation, they flout both clauses of the agreement, and this was made clear today,” he claimed.

Kobakhidze appealed to opposition MPs to take part in the last planned session to vote on the changes while adding that “their participation was not essential,” and that “constitutional changes will be adopted without a hitch.”

Majority Leader Mamuka Mdinaradze expressed doubt, claiming that the opposition will not change its tack until the third hearing. We are certain that the proposed changes will successfully clear the last hurdle – while the UNM and its spin-offs [referring to European Georgia and other splinter groups] will play no role in implementing the March 8 Agreement, Mdinaradze stated.

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