Georgian ruling party, opposition agree on 2020 parliamentary election system
After months of disputes and consultations, the authorities and the opposition have agreed on a plan for the parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn of 2020.
The agreement was reached at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, where the final round of negotiations took place: 120 MPs will be elected to Georgia’s 150-seat parliament according to the proportional system, and 30 according to the majoritarian system. A 1-percent electoral threshold has been set, with a cap assuring that no single party holding less than 40% of the votes will win the majority in the next parliament.
The amendments to the legislation will be considered on March 11 by parliament, and will be voted on over the course of three hearings before being introduced into the constitution. They require 113 votes to be approved.
The compromise adheres as closely as possible to opposition demands, which were voiced during several months of protests.
However, the political crisis was largely provoked by the authorities themselves: back in 2016, in an attempt to pacify protesters, leader of the Georgian Dream Party Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to switch exclusively to a proportional election system. However, on November 14, 2019, these amendments failed to pass in parliament, as a number of MPs refused to abolish the majoritarian system.
The accredited diplomatic corps in the country joined the effort to resolve the domestic political crisis. Until recently, the authorities insisted on a parliamentary composition of 110 proportional seats and 40 majoritarian seats, but the opposition managed to achieve a revision in their favor, i.e., to reduce the number of majority seats.
Under the current legislation, 77 out of 150 deputies were elected according to the proportional system, and 73 according to the majoritarian system. The large number of majoritarian seats gave the authorities an advantage – in single-mandate constituencies, those on the side of the authorities almost always won. This led to a situation where Georgian Dream won only 48.6% of the votes in the 2016 parliamentary elections, but was given a total of 115 seats in parliament, and was able to form a constitutional majority.
This is why the opposition made every effort to at least reduce the number of seats held by the ruling party, even if it was completely impossible to get rid of them. The new plan does not give the ruling party such an extreme advantage, and instead opens up more opportunities for the opposition.
After negotiations ended the US Embassy, opposition representatives told reporters that the issue of political prisoners had been resolved as well, and that the former mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, would most likely be pardoned by the president, and Ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, founder and shareholder of Mtavari Arkhi TV Giorgi Rurua, and activist Besik Tamliani will be released from prison. This was later denied by government officials.