GD Leader, U.S. Ambassador Spar on Credentials

Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze and U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan have sparred on credentials and legal knowledge after the latter criticized the ruling party’s possible backtracking on EU-brokered constitutional amendments to lower the election threshold to 2% from 5% and make the next parliamentary polls fully proportional.

Ambassador Degnan had said over the possible backtracking that “some don’t seem to understand that a democracy requires a plurality of views” and warned that one-party rule would risk “the tyranny of the majority.”

GD chair says U.S. Ambassador ‘not an expert’

In response, the GD chair stated on December 2 that only two EU countries have a 2% or a lower election threshold, adding that “a tyranny is not taking hold” in the states with a higher barrier. “I am telling you this as an expert, and Ms Kelly [Degnan] is of course not an expert,” MP Kobakhidze told reporters.

The ruling party chair argued pluralism and diversity in the Parliament can be achieved through the proportional parliamentary elections system, which “will come into force from 2024.” The amendments proposed in the EU-brokered April 19 deal envisaged making any next general vote, including snap parliamentary elections, fully proportional.

“We are ready to renew debate about the election threshold but it has its precondition, which is that every political party must be present at the Parliament,” said the GD chair, referring to the United National Movement party’s continued refusal to participate in plenary sessions.

Ambassador Degnan retorts

Responding to the GD chair on December 3, Ambassador Degnan said “I have great respect for Mr. Kobakhidze’s knowledge and experience in constitutional law, and many other constitutional experts that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with here in Georgia. This country is really blessed with many well-educated and well-informed constitutional law specialists.”

However, the Ambassador argued she too has a background in constitutional law, and has worked in assisting a country to write its constitution by comparative analysis of different constitutions. “Comparing what has worked well in one system or another is very important and useful, but in the end, it is each country that needs to decide what is best for its system,” the diplomat added.

She highlighted that Georgian leaders had agreed for a 1% threshold for the October 2020 parliamentary polls in the foreign-facilitated March 8 agreement of 2020, and for a 2% barrier in the EU-brokered deal of 2021.

“This 2% threshold is designed to continue to bring in a multi-party system that will allow more diversity in the parliament and more Georgian voices and views to be represented in parliament, and that is very important,” the Ambassador asserted, adding “that was the agreement of Georgia’s political leaders for what is in Georgia’s best interests at this time.”

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