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Ombudsman, NGOs call on MPs to vote on switching to proportional electoral system

By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, November 14
After delaying it for two days, the Parliament of Georgia is set to consider a constitutional amendment to move the parliamentary electoral system of the country from mixed to proportional.

Many international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, have recommended the change of the electoral system in numerous reports.

The Georgian Parliament amended the constitution and adopted the proportional electoral system only for the 2024 elections, with 2020 set to be held with the mixed (proportional and majoritarian) system.

Following the days of protest in June 2019, the ruling party agreed to one of the demands and initiated for the 2020 elections to be held with the proportional system. The Parliament was set to adopt the constitutional amendments in the Fall session, however, several ruling team MPs refuse to vote in favor of the change.

Initially planned to be adopted on November 12, 16 members of the majority, 12 of whom are initiators of the draft law opposed the bill, with the number of opponents rising on the next day, the Parliament decided to once again postpone the voting to not risk the scrapping of the bill.

In the 2017 report, The Venice Commission expressed its regret concerning the postponement of the entry into force of the proportional election system to October 2024, “as this is a major obstacle to reaching a consensus in the country.”

The Public Defender of Georgia and numerous local NGOs have called on the members of the Parliament and the ruling Georgian Dream party to fulfill their promise and approve the necessary amendments.

“The Public Defender is considering the transition to a proportional electoral system in the human rights context and expresses support for it, since it ensures the equality of the weight of votes, less lost votes, proportional transformation of votes into parliamentary mandates and political pluralism in the Parliament,” reads the statement of the Georgian Ombudsman.

In the 2017 report, in the context of the right to vote, the Public Defender negatively assessed the postponement of the transition to the proportional electoral system from 2020 to 2024.

Public Defender calls on the readiness of the ruling party to introduce the proportional electoral system by the 2020 parliamentary elections “an undoubted step forward in terms of protection of political rights of the country and its citizens.”

Concluding the statement, the Public Defender called on the Parliament to support the transition to a proportional electoral system by the 2020 parliamentary elections, “which will promote political pluralism and proportional representation of people's will and election results in the Parliament.”

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) has also called on the MPs to adopt the constitutional amendment, stating the existing system as the main hindrance for the democracy in the country.

“GYLA considers that the mixed electoral system is a major obstacle to the development of the Georgian democracy, therefore we have been and are observing the current processes. …GYLA calls on the members of the Parliament of Georgia to fulfill the promises made to the public and to support the draft constitutional bill,” reads the statement.

International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), a local NGO working on monitoring the elections and related issues also shares the view that the constitutional bill should be supported without delay. They call the change of the electoral system one of the main demands of the public towards the government.

“Conducting the 2020 elections with a proportional system is crucial to the country’s democratic consolidation. Proportional elections offer the opportunity to establish a European-style multi-party democracy and improve the political process. Changing the electoral system will be an important step towards weakening one-party control over state institutions, restoring the balance between the branches of the government and reducing polarization,” states ISFED.

Protesters gathered yesterday in front of the Parliament on Rustaveli Avenue, after the announcement that the vote on the bill was delayed for another day, demanding that the MPs immediately adopt the bill.

The protesters in June had several demands, including the resignation of the Chairman of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze and holding the 2020 parliamentary elections with the proportional system. The ruling team agreed on both. The third demand, for then-Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia to resign, was ignored and he was advanced to become a Prime Minister of the country following the bloody dispersal of the June 20-21 rally.