During the past months, the Georgian National Platform (GNP) of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum has issued a number of Statements regarding the amendments to the Constitution of Georgia. In these documents, the GNP shed light on the importance of the fundamental principle of electoral equality, which the proposed system would substantially violate.
The main change introduced by the Constitutional Commission is the shift from the current mixed voting system towards a proportional system. Whereas initially this transition should take place in 2020, the Georgian Dream postponed it to 2024 in a recent closed-door meeting. The new Constitution also introduces the ban to create coalitions, while the election threshold for parties remains at 5%. In addition, the reform provides that the the majority party receives the votes of the parties below the threshold. Moreover, the revised document envisages that the President of Georgia will no longer be directly elected by the citizens, but by a special college composed of 150 parliamentarians and 150 representatives of regional and municipal authorities.
While the GNP has welcomed the proportional system proposed for the Parliament elections, concerns have arisen about the modifications hindering the proportional representation of political parties in the Parliament. The prohibition of electoral blocks and the requirement to reach a 5% threshold in order to enter the Parliament clearly restrict the political competition, violating the principles of proportionality and equality. Finally, the proposed changes would deprive the President of his popular legitimacy, which would also result in a diminished control over the Parliament.
Concerned about the impediment to the development of democracy and pluralism in the country, the GNP has stressed the importance of introducing the proportional system for the parliamentary elections without hampering the political competition.
On 25 April, representatives of the GNP member organizations held a meeting with the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze to discuss the relevant amendments. In line with this, the GNP also issued a statement, calling on the Parliament of Georgia to introduce the proportional system in line with the principle of fair elections with the proportional allocation of undistributed mandates and lower electoral threshold to 3%.
Another appeal to the President of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, Mr. Gianni Buquicchio, was signed by 90 organizations and stressed the importance of a balanced electoral system, the need for bringing it in line with the principle of fair elections, equality and proportionality.
Finally, on 18 May, the GNP member organizations conducted a meeting with the President of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Margvelashvili, and shared the unified position of the Platform on the most important constitutional amendments.
“I welcome the opportunity to discuss the ongoing constitutional amendments with the civil society. The starting point of the reform is that the Constitution needs to be balanced. Any model maintaining a balance for a democratic society is acceptable. Given this context, I am ready to take the opinion of the civil society into consideration” – the President of Georgia said.
At the meeting, the Platform members expressed their positions on the competencies of the President of Georgia, the system for electing the President, and issues of self-governance. The GNP issued an appeal to the Parliament, highlighting the importance of political pluralism, pluralistic democracy and diverse government institutions, calling for the creation of a political environment where the state leader is elected through universal, equal and direct suffrage.