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Venice Commission urges Georgia to re-consider Parliament’s Formation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 19
The Council of Europe’s Constitutional experts in the Venice Commission have positively assessed Georgia’s draft of constitutional amendments. However, they stressed the rule of Parliament formation should be reconsidered to ensure pluralism.

“The proposed reform deserves a positive assessment,” stated the press release of the Council of Europe published on June 16, 2017.

“The move towards the fully proportional system of the election of all the members of Parliament is a welcome change, since the current mixed system has tended to lead to overwhelming majorities of the governing parties in parliament,” reads the press release of the Council.

However, the Venice Commission made it clear that the positive step forward is limited by three mechanisms: a 5% threshold rule in legislative elections, undistributed votes below the 5% threshold being allocated to the winning party, and the abolition of electoral coalitions (party blocs).

“While the 5% threshold is perfectly in line with European standards, taken together, that could reduce the chances for small parties’ voters to be represented. At the session, the Venice Commission was informed that the Georgian Parliament is considering modifying the mechanism on undistributed votes, and that other Venice Commission recommendations will be taken on board,” stated the press statement of the Council of Europe. The statement also highlighted that the Venice Commission considered an indirect election system for the President to be in line with European standards.

“It is welcome that the new system will not be applicable for next year’s election but only from 2023. However, the Venice Commission warned against the constant and exclusive election of the candidate presented by the parliamentary majority. Regarding the budget, it reiterated its previous recommendation to strengthen the role of Parliament,” said the press release of the Council of Europe.

Regarding the definition of marriage as “a union between a woman and a man” in current draft, the Venice Commission noted that it should not “be interpreted as prohibiting same sex civil partnerships.”

In addition, the Commission gave special attention to “an explicit recognition of freedom of religion” and introduction of “constitutional guarantees for the recognition and protection of children’s rights.”

The current Parliament of Georgia is composed of 150 lawmakers.

The draft of constitutional changes read that the party that would win the first place would garner all undistributed votes received by the parties, which fail to overcome the election threshold.

However, after the large-scale criticism of the note, the Georgian Dream majority says the number of non-allotted mandates received by the party cannot be more than 35% of the basic mandates received by it.

The opposition still stands against the five percent election threshold and banning of election blocs, stressing the change reduces the chance of many parties to appear in Parliament.