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Clash over electoral system continues

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, February 10
While Georgia is preparing for the 2020 elections, it is still to be determined when or with which system they will be held. The dispute over the potential electoral system remains as the central topic of today’s Georgian politics. The Georgian Dream ruling party and the United Opposition still haven't reached consensus.

The government insists on holding the elections with the current mixed electoral system, whereas the opposition demands proportional elections and doesn’t settle for the minimal compromise that the ruling party offered- to reduce the number of MPs from 73 to 50.

Along with the opening of the spring session in the parliament on February 5, so renewed the opposition rallies. Despite no large turnout, it is still an annoyance to the parliament majority.

“Emergency visits” to the US, arranged by the Georgian Dream, started with Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaniani’s visit there last week. Parliament Chairperson Archil Talakvadze and Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia will follow suit. The Georgian government claims that the series of visits will answer every question and concern that the strategic partner has been actively expressing about the country’s representatives.

Recently, the Georgian government has been receiving letters from US congressmen and senators. The letters express concern over the rejection of democratic reforms by the government, violent dispersal of peaceful rallies, and political oppression of the opposition. The US government has never criticised the Georgian government so acutely. The Georgian Dream believes that such sharp criticism is due to the opposition’s spreading of misinformation and is counting on the strategic visits to the US. The visits will, by all means, concern the fair holding of elections as well as the system to hold them in. The government representatives will have to account for blocking the Anaklia Deep-Sea port construction. But first and foremost, the Georgian Dream will have to artfully dissociate themselves from having orchestrated anti-western and, specifically, anti-US propaganda through various forms of media and Facebook.

In 2019, the Georgian government spent 2,7 million dollars from the state budget on lobbying services. Official information regarding this fact made the topic the central theme of the present Georgian politics. In the pre-election period, it is expected that the lobbying warfare between the Georgian Dream party and the opposition will intensify.

Georgian President Salome Zourabischvili created intrigue while answering a question from Russian MP Kalashnikov at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at the end of January 2020. Kalashnikov blamed Georgia for beating Russian MP Gavrilov during his official visit to Georgia on June 20, 2019. In her answer, Zourabischili mentioned that “Georgia is ready to break its own National “Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia” and allow Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov into the country.” Georgia, as the head country of the Council of Europe, is supposed to host the Ministerial of the Council of Europe in May 2020. It is not too early to guess that Lavrov’s visit might irritate the population and cause another wave of protests.

Last week, Newspaper “Qronika+” published the so-called “Georgian Dream’s Secret Research,” which estimated that the Georgian Dream party will receive 25% at the Parliament Elections, and be defeated by the United Opposition. In response, the ruling party’s representatives made a bold statement, saying that they are expecting to receive more than 60-70 % of the votes. The opposition responded with sarcasm- “If you’re so confident in your victory, why make such a fuss about the electoral system?”

There are talks about snap parliamentary elections now and then. If the opposition and the government don’t reach an agreement regarding the electoral system, early elections might even benefit the parliament as they will be held with the mixed system and the 3 % barrier. Governments are always better prepared for snap elections than oppositions, even though early elections might not be able to save the government anyway.

(Translated by Mariam Mchedlidze)