What is the ‘German electoral model’ that could solve the political crisis in Georgia?
Protests have not subsided in Georgia since the parliament decided not to pass a constitutional amendment to switch to a fully proportional parliamentary election system.
The opposition demands that the government fulfill its promise and hold elections on a proportional basis.
• All you need to know about the Tbilisi protests in 180 seconds
However, the ruling party refuses.
The main argument of the ruling team is the following: the parliament has already rejected the amendments and the next attempt will also fail, because the “rebellious” majoritarian MP who opposed the initiative of party head Bidzina Ivanishvili and voted against the reform have not changed their minds.
They will again vote against the bill.
The amendment would require a constitutional majority, that is, 113 votes, to pass. That is, the votes of the ‘ruling party rebels’ are clearly needed.
The opposition, of course, does not believe in the story of the “uprising” of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s teammates, but in the current conditions, the opposition has offered the government another solution: to hold the 2020 parliamentary elections not on a fully proportional system, but according to a compromise, on the so-called German model.
What is the ‘German model?’
•According to the ‘German model’, parliamentary elections would continue to be held according to a mixed, that is, proportional and majoritarian system. That is, on the day of parliamentary elections, voters will still receive two ballots – only parties would be indicated on one ballot (this is called the proportional system); the second ballot will include the names of candidates running in a particular constituency (majoritarian system).
• If the German model enters into force, there will still be 150 MPs in the Georgian parliament, 77 of which will be elected by the proportional list, and 73 by the majoritarian system – just like today.
•The main and fundamental difference will be made in the mechanism for counting votes received according to the proportional and majority system, and in the principle of converting these votes into parliamentary mandates:
Today, mandates received by parties on party lists and majoritarian districts are simply mechanically added to each other.
• Why the proportional electoral system is so important for Georgia
In the case of the German model, the distribution of mandates will be different:
For example, if Party X receives 10 percent of the vote in a proportional system and won seven out of 73 majoritarian constituencies, the party will receive 15 parliamentary seats out of 150 members.
Who exactly will go to the parliament from this party will be established as follows: all seven MPs elected in the majoritarian districts will enter parliament, while the rest will be added per the proportional list.
What if the party received 10 percent or 15 MPs per party lists, but at the same time won 30 majoritarian constituencies?
•In this case, all 30 majoritarian candidates, but not a single MP from the proportional list, will make it into parliament. That is, the winner of the majoritarian elections unconditionally wins the mandate, regardless of the outcome of his party.
“This model is not the best, it also has injustices. But according to the current constitution, this is the best decision,” says constitutionalist Vahushti Menabde.
Also, according to the ‘German model’, parties can unite in electoral blocs. And the electoral threshold is three per cent instead of the current five per cent.
• The ‘German model’ would only be used for the 2020 parliamentary elections.
What arguments does the opposition have regarding the ‘German model’ and what do the authorities respond?
The first argument is that the adoption of this model does not require a constitutional majority, since it is not a constitutional amendment.
A simple majority, or 76 MPs, is enough to pass this law, which means that it can be freely adopted even without the support of the “rebel” MPs.
The second and main argument is that the ‘German model’ is much more fair and can more adequately reflect the will of the electorate than the current one.
The authorities have rejected the opposition’s offer.
On November 25, the parliamentary majority gathered again at the office of the Georgian Dream.
After the meeting, the party’s general secretary, Kakha Kaladze, said that “the topic is closed” and that in 2020 the elections will be held according to the current mixed system, and not as the opposition demands.
Their statements can be summarized as follows: the adoption of the ‘German model’ requires a constitutional majority, since the constitution must be amended to adopt it. But this is impossible, because there are lawmakers in the ruling party who will not vote for any changes.
On November 26, Imedi broadcast a special debate on the topic of the ‘German model’ between former parliamentary speaker David Usupashvili and a representative of the ruling party, Irakli Kobakhidze.
Usupashvili, as the initiator of the ‘German model’, insisted that it was compatible with the constitution and that its adoption would prevent a political crisis in the country. He said that it will allow all political parties to participate on an equal footing in the election campaign.
Usupashvili suggested Kobakhidze send the bill for examination to the Venice Commission (advisory body of the Council of Europe on constitutional law).
“If the Venice Commission says that [the German model] is unconstitutional, that’s that. If it says that it is in conformity with the constitution, then the parliament passes the law with 76 votes,” suggested Usupashvili Kobakhidze during the debate.
But, according to Kobakhidze, the “German model” must first be discussed domestically.
“First, a legal discussion should take place, and then a political one. Let’s sit down and discuss the problem first from a legal point of view in any format, with the participation of any expert, non-governmental, foreign or national organization. If we determine that this is an incident at the level of a first-year lecture, then let’s not be like a banana republic and will not send such an incident to the Venice Commission,” Kobakhidze replied.
A legal discussion on this topic has been ongoing for several days.
The country’s most prominent constitutionalists, lawyers and non-governmental organizations agree that the ‘German model’ does not need constitutional amendments and can easily be adopted by the current parliament with political will.
Experts say that by delving into the legal details, the government is trying to reject opposition proposals.
Given the decline in the rating of the ruling party, it will be difficult for it to get a majority in the elections in 2020 if the ‘German model’ comes into force.
Constitutionalist Vahushti Menabde writes on Facebook:
The ‘German model’ (its modified version) is fully consistent with the constitution. Our constitution states that the Parliament consists of “77 MPs elected by the proportional system and 73 elected by the majority system.
“Today, this proportion is calculated from 77 MPs, and according to the German model it will be calculated from 150. This does not contradict the constitution, since the constitution does not indicate where the proportion should be calculated from. ”
According to constitutionalist Alik Kuprava, this decision requires only political will:
“It is necessary to adopt a political consensus on this decision. The Georgian Dream is not ready for this. In the majoritarian system, the Georgian Dream only sees a way to stuff its MPs in parliament again and have more than it logically should have. If the German model is introduced, there will be a risk that the ruling party will not be able to get an absolute majority on its own in the 2020 elections.”