Georgia begins nationwide discussion of constitutional amendments
Discussions on constitutional amendments regarding the electoral system are set to begin in Georgia on June 4.
Due to the pandemic, they will be broadcast online by the Georgian Public Broadcaster and Adjara TV. All interested parties will be able to ask parliament speaker Archil Talkvadze and members of the constitutional commission questions via internet.
The parliamentary elections this fall were meant to be held according to a compromise agreement, with 100 MPs elected by party lists and 50 from majoritarian lists with a 1 percent election threshold.
112 votes are required to adopt the constitutional amendments and, consequently, the new voting system. Due to internal conflicts, the Georgian Dream Party lost its constitutional majority when some of the MPs left the party.
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Now, Georgian Dream, which has retained a simple majority in parliament (95 seats), must rely on opposition votes to pass amendments to the constitution.
However, the opposition – mainly the United National Movement and European Georgia – which insisted on changing the electoral scheme and, as a result of lengthy negotiations with the participation of foreign diplomats working in Tbilisi, won concessions from the authorities, now threatens to boycott the parliamentary vote.
It demands that all requirements of compromise reached on March 8 this year be fulfilled. The opposition claims that the authorities did not fully comply with the agreement on the release of political prisoners. And this was the second point of the compromise.
Giorgi Rurua, one of the founders of the opposition television channel Mtavari Arkhi [Geo. Main channel], who was detained for illegal acquisition and possession of firearms, remains behind bars.
Two others who the opposition considered to be political political prisoners – former mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, convicted of misappropriation of budgetary funds, and former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, charged for organizing and participating in the riots in Tbilisi last summer – were pardoned by President Salome Zurabishvili after being but under serious pressure from the West.
Now the opposition is demanding the release of Rurua, threatening to refuse to vote on the adoption of constitutional amendments otherwise. However, Tina Bokuchava, representative of the National Movement, reported that her sources say that the Georgian Dream Party was ready to support the group of independent MPs in the vote, meaning that the amendments to the constitution would be adopted. This information was confirmed by group representative Mariam Jashi.
Parliament majority member Irakli Kobakhidze said that the discussion of the amendments will likely end in mid-June, and on June 21 they will be presented in the first reading before the parliament. He says that the amendments may be adopted at the end of June.