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Candidate Status and 2% Threshold

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, July 18, 2022
Recently, many statements have been made by the speaking leaders of "Georgian Dream" to the West. Among them was the message of Irakli Kobakhidze - if Georgia gets the EU membership status, then "Georgian Dream" will hold the 2024 parliamentary elections with a 2% threshold. The opposition considered this statement as an attempt to trade with the European Union and incorrect. The European Union has not yet reacted.

On July 7, 2022, the chairman of "Georgian Dream" Irakli Kobakhidze linked the lowering of the electoral threshold to Georgia's acceptance of the EU membership candidate status. Kobakhidze's proposal sounded as follows: no later than one month after the European Union grants Georgia candidate status in December, the Parliament of Georgia will adopt a constitutional law in all three readings, according to which the 2024 and subsequent parliamentary elections will be held with a fully proportional system and a 2% threshold.

Proportional elections and the topic of the electoral threshold are traditional demands of the opposition in Georgian politics. The point is that in majoritarian elections, it is always easier for the government to withdraw its candidate, and the existing 5% electoral threshold leads to the loss of a significant part of the votes received by small parties, which again benefits the political power in power. The last parliamentary elections of 2020 were held once, with a 1% threshold (120 deputies were elected proportionally, 30 were elected by majority rule). The opposition accused "Georgian Dream" of total falsification of the elections and refused to enter the parliament for a long time, but with the great efforts of the West, it was possible to reach an agreement between the government and the opposition, and finally, to bring the opposition into the parliament. It must be said that this was an important support for "Georgian Dream". The basis of the agreement was the document signed on April 19, 2021 (the so-called "Charles Michel document"). The mentioned document provided for the electoral reform and provided for the "threshold from natural to 2%" during the elections.

"Georgian Dream" left the April 19 agreement in August 2021 and refused to fulfill it. However, he announced that he would lower the electoral threshold. The Parliament adopted the changes in the first reading in September 2021, where the threshold was set at 2%. However, they did not accept it in the second and third reading.

As can be seen from the statement of Irakli Kobakhidze, they will not accept either. Lowering the threshold is vital for several parties entering the parliament as a result of the 2020 elections. They will struggle with the 2% threshold, and the 5% threshold will leave them without a parliament. If the 2020 elections were held under the conditions of the 5% threshold, only Georgian Dream and National Movement would get into the parliament. e. year "Polarization" will continue under the 5% threshold.

According to the constitution, the next parliamentary elections in 2024 should be held entirely with a proportional system and under the conditions of a 5% threshold. The representatives of "Kaarthu Dream" have already announced several times that they will win another victory in the 2024 elections. A few days ago, Irakli Kobakhidze also spoke about the upcoming victory. According to his statement, "in 2024, society will once again reject the political forces that wanted war in the country and will support the force that avoided all this from the country."

According to the statements of the opposition representatives, the reduction of the electoral threshold is provided for by the 12 conditions put forward by the European Union. It is true that the electoral threshold is not mentioned in these 12 points, but Charles Michel's document is mentioned, in which, as already stated, the topic of the threshold was defined. "Georgian Dream" categorically rejects such an approach.

According to Irakli Kobakhidze, the topic of the threshold is not at all related to the 12 points of the European Union, and in most of the EU countries, the 5% threshold is in effect, and "it is the sovereign right of the state to determine the electoral threshold itself." Reducing the barrier, so to speak, is the good will of "Georgian Dream" and the 13th commitment taken by its own will.

We know the position of the government and the opposition on this issue. But what will happen if an application is made by the European Union that Georgia receives the status of EU member, but with a 2% threshold elections should be held early - in the spring of 2023? On the one hand, this will eliminate the flood of anti-Western propaganda that the West wants to involve Georgia in the war and that is why they did not give it the EU membership status.

Even if the European Union agrees to Kobakhidze's proposal, there remains another option for the development of events, which is quite possible based on past experience. Suddenly, it turns out that another group of deputies will organize a "rebellion" in the official party, and enough votes for constitutional changes will no longer be gathered.

It is more likely that the European Union will not respond to this statement of Irakli Kobakhidze, and anti-Western letters will continue to be written by "Georgian Dream" and the deputies who left it. The main intrigue is Bidzina Ivanishvili and the prospect of her being put under sanctions. It is clear that this kind of development of events is not in the interests of "Georgian Dream", but neither should the government give in, which makes the fulfillment of the 12 points real.