The constitutional amendments, which change the rules of distribution of seats in the elections, were supported by 136 deputies in the first reading. During the second hearing, 115 deputies supported the amendments to the bill. The Georgian Dream party prepared the amendments on the basis of an agreement reached with the opposition parties on March 8. American and European diplomats took part in the negotiation process.
Parliament passes constitutional amendment on election at second hearing
By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, June 24
Adoption of constitutional amendments requires the support of at least 113 deputies and three hearings. Among the 136 lawmakers who voted in favor of the first ballot, 20 votes were from European Georgia. They refused to vote in the second hearing, saying that it was the government's turn to release Giorgi Rurua, who the opposition considered to be a political prisoner. The government does not share this opinion. Rurua, accused of illegal purchase, storage and carrying of weapons, whose case is being considered by the Tbilisi City Court, is still in pre-trial detention.
The members of the National Movement did not take part in the voting in the second reading either. Georgian Dream has garnered the necessary votes for constitutional changes from its former teammates and the Patriots Alliance. There were 119 MPs registered and Bidzina Gegidze, Alexander Erkvania, Kakha Okriashvili voted against the document; Nato Chkheidze refrained from participating in the voting.
According to the constitutional amendments, the number of proportionally elected deputies will change from 77 to 120, and the number of majoritarian constituencies will be reduced from 73 to 30. According to the bill, proportional elections will be held with a 1% threshold and the so-called Lock to rule out the formation of a parliamentary majority by a political party or electoral bloc with less than 40% support and the formation of a government independently.
This electoral system will be in effect until 2024, because according to the Constitution of Georgia, from 2024 the parliamentary elections will be held in a completely proportional system.
Irakli Kobakhidze, one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream and authors of the amendment, expects that the same will happen at the third hearing. According to him 116 votes have been counted before the sitting, and one vote was lost only because one MP, Ada Marshania, left for health issues and couldn’t participate in the voting. “We are confident that Monday, we will pass the bill with 116 votes, without any problems,” said Kobakhidze, thanking all deputies who supported the constitutional changes, which is ‘a very important step that will contribute to the stable development of democratic processes in Georgia.’
According to Kobakhidze, the United National Movement and European Georgia, which refused to participate in the voting, grossly violated the March 8 agreement. He called on the deputies of these opposition parties to fulfill the agreement and go to the polls scheduled for next Monday. However, as Kobakhidze says, without them, the changes will pass without any problems.
Mamuka Mdinaradze, chairman of the Georgian Dream faction, says that due to non-participation in the voting, the United National Movement and European Georgia have a responsibility to both the public and all signatories to the March 8 agreement.
"They ignored the call of the facilitator ambassadors. "With this decision, the United National Movement, with all its divisions, withdrew from the March 8 agreement," Mdinaradze said.
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzel responded to the support for the second reading of the constitutional amendments on Twitter. He expressed concern over the ‘narrow margin’ and hoped the bill would have unanimous support for a third hearing.“I hope the spirit of the 8 March agreement will be reclaimed, incl. the 142 votes backing it then, in view of the final vote on 29/6.” he wrote.
German MEP Viola von Cramon also wrote on twitter: ”Good news! Parliament of Georgia passed Constitutional amendments with 2nd reading. 1 more to go! ElectoralReform is in interest of Georgian democracy & every party has to take responsibility for political processes by voting for the amendments.”
US Congressman Adam Kinsinger also commented on the adoption of the constitutional amendments by the Parliament of Georgia at the second reading. He spoke about this at a video conference with Georgian journalists and expressed hope that the changes in the third ballot will have the support of all parties. He also noted that all signatories to the March 8 agreement are well aware of its terms and he is not going to judge who is right and who is wrong.