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GD Hints Backtracking on EU-brokered Constitutional Amendments

Georgian Dream Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze has said the proposed constitutional amendments, that among others envisage holding any next two parliamentary elections fully proportionally with a 2% threshold (instead of 5%), — if adopted at all — should only apply to elections starting from the planned 2024 vote.

“We understand very well, that there is no necessity to adopt these changes,” MP Kobakhidze told reporters on November 30, hinting at backtracking on the amendments drafted as per the EU-brokered April 19 deal between GD and opposition parties.

The bill, cleared with the first hearing on September 7, needs two more hearings to be approved. According to current rules, while from 2024 Georgia will move to a fully proportional system with a 5% entry threshold, any snap elections before it, would have a mixed system with 30 MPs still elected as majoritarians.

The ruling party chairperson also suggested that adopting the changes – which would require 113 MPs in the 150-member legislature — is in the hands of the GD, which has 84 lawmakers.

He dubbed the amendments ruling party’s potential “small gift” to the opposition, saying whether they receive the gift will “ultimately depend on our goodwill” and the opponents’ deeds.

“Much will depend on the behavior and actions of different [political] subjects,” he said, adding that the ruling party hopes to see “a desire in the opposition spectrum to change the existing polarized environment.”

Noting that the main disadvantage of the low threshold is its “proneness to instability,” GD Chair dismissed prospects of holding snap elections before 2024.

Previously, in early November, MP Kobakhidze suggested that keeping the 5% threshold “could be better for democratic development,” albeit pledged to continue relevant discussions.

The Georgian Dream quit the EU-brokered deal in July. GD leadership then pledged however to remain committed to reforms envisaged in the accord. Despite stated commitments, GD backtracked in September on another proposed change – introducing the 3/5 vote for electing the chief prosecutor, sparking criticism from the EU and U.S.

Opposition Response

Reacting to MP Kobakhidze’s remarks, United National Movement MP Akaki Minashvili told Formula TV the ruling party is not confident there will not be snap elections, otherwise, they would have adopted the amendments and fulfill promises made to Georgia’s international partners.

“In reality, the government sees there is a political crisis in the country, an economic crisis, a social crisis, and the probability that there will be an early election in the country is very high. In fact, it is inevitable.”

Lelo party MP Ana Natsvlishvili concurred, saying that MP Kobakhidze’s statement “proves the Georgian Dream truly feels the real dangers” of early parliamentary elections.

Accusing GD MPs of having “hysterical fear” of losing their seats, MP Natsvlishvili argued the ruling party is trying “to ensure that even in the event of early elections, they keep the system that gives them an unfair but serious advantage.”

CSOs React

19 local civil society organizations on December 1 slammed the Georgian Dream chair’s remarks as “damaging to the democratization process in the country.”

The CSOs, among them Transparency International Georgia and International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), underscored that the Georgian Dream “continues to refuse to fulfill its obligations” after quitting the EU-mediated deal.

The watchdogs noted that the Georgian lawmakers unanimously adopted the constitutional amendments adopted in its first hearing with “a rare and welcomed practice of cooperation.” The GD’s backtracking now would harm the already polarized political environment and “call into question the credibility of the ruling party,” the joint statement said.

The article was updated at 16:05 on December 1 to include the CSO’s statement.

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

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