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Outline of upcoming parliamentary elections

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, July 8
Last week, parliament finally passed a constitutional amendment to the election model that came into force after the president signed it. Parliament immediately moved to discuss changes to the Electoral Code, and it is expected that it will be adopted soon. However, the opposition has remarks regarding a number of articles of the Electoral Code.

On June 29th, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the draft constitutional amendments in the third reading by 117 votes to 3, according to which the 2020 parliamentary elections will be held according to a model close to proportional representation. It has now been decided that 120 out of 150 deputies will be elected by the proportional system and 30 by the majoritarian system. Accordingly, the distribution of constituencies is also changing. The adopted model encourages the separate participation of small parties in the elections, as a 1% threshold is set for political parties, and the registration of parties is simplified. The right to participate in the elections is a party that submits 5,000 signatures. 19 parties with qualified subjects and all those parties that have received more than 15 thousand votes independently or otherwise in the last elections are exempted from this obligation. However, the 1% threshold does not apply to party blocs that were often formed in Georgia before the parliamentary elections - the more parties that join the bloc, the higher the percentage threshold. This system does not encourage the creation of pre-election blocs; if we recall, in the past, the strong government party was opposed by the opposition in the form of blocs. Usually, not opposition parties but pre-election blocs managed to change governments.

The novelty of the electoral system will also be that the undivided mandates will be distributed to the political parties that have received the largest balance; Also, in case of receiving 40% of the votes, the party will not be able to get more than 50% of the seats, or more than 75 seats in the parliament. Consequently, it will not be able to form a government independently and it will be necessary to form a coalition government.

The Georgian Dream has blamed the constitutional amendment on the election, accusing the opposition of trying to reform it. The United Opposition immediately responded that the constitutional amendments were the result of opposition unanimity and pressure from the international community, and it took almost a year to adopt.

With the adoption of the constitutional amendments, the government considers that the agreement reached with the United Opposition on March 8th has been fulfilled, although the opposition parties participating in the agreement do not think so. They are demanding the release of Giorgi Rurua and consider it part of the March 8th agreement. That is why the MPs of the National Movement and European Georgia did not take part in the second and third hearings of the constitutional amendments. However, after the adoption of the constitutional amendments, the opposition has no leverage to influence the government on this issue.

If the opposition talks about the need to change the government in the upcoming parliamentary elections, the ruling Georgian Dream spoke about the need to change the opposition in the upcoming elections. Leaders of the ruling party made statements on this topic almost simultaneously. First, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that “Georgia's enemies should no longer be in the parliament of the new convocation of Georgia.” Archil Talakvadze, the chairman of the parliament, distinguished between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ opposition. The ‘old’ opposition is the "National Movement" and “European Georgia", which did not support the constitutional changes and "dragged the country into the past.” They are opposed by the Georgian Dream and the New Opposition, which support constitutional changes.

Judging by these statements, the task of the Georgian Dream in the upcoming parliamentary elections is not only to stay in power, but also to replace the opposition - as one of the politicians noted, “in 2012, the Georgian Dream threw the UNM out of office; now, they should throw them out of opposition.” The Georgian Dream is thinking about the desired opposition with which it will cooperate.

After the adoption of the constitutional amendments, the Parliament accelerated the amendments to the Electoral Code. These changes were approved by the first reading at the July 1st sitting of the Parliament (91 in favor, 5 against). The Electoral Code includes many positive changes, but, as many non-governmental organizations state, they still don’t fully meet the recommendations from OSCE and ODIHR. However, this can be further discussed after the final adoption of the amendments to the election legislation.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)