Georgian Parliament Endorses Electoral Reform Bill in its First Hearing

At a special session held on June 21, the Georgian parliament passed constitutional amendments on electoral change in the first reading with overwhelming support from lawmakers.

If approved in the second and third readings, the amendments will clear the way for overhauling the current electoral system.

The proposed legislation foresees introducing a parliamentary composition based on 120 proportional and 30 majoritarian seats and fixing the election threshold at 1 % of votes. The bill will also enact a constraint barring any single party that receives less than 40 % of votes from claiming a majority of seats in the Parliament, and hence, from forming the government on its own.

Of the 142 lawmakers who attended the session, 136 voted in favor of the electoral reform bill, and 5 voted against it.

European Georgia MPs endorsed the amendments in the first reading, conditioning their support in further, second and third readings by tangible steps made to release Giorgi Rurua, an opposition-minded Mtavari TV boss who has been detained – opposition claims – on trumped-up gun charges. Lawmakers from the United National Movement, another opposition party, were absent from the session, demanding the release of “political prisoner” Rurua as a precondition to back the legislation. 

Two ensuing votes on changes to the Constitution are expected to be held in the next two weeks.

Politicians’ Assessments

“This is another significant day for the country’s democratic development… We will hold democratic, transparent, and just elections,” Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze told reporters after the session.

Mamuka Mdinaradze, Leader of GD Majority in Parliament, stated that “Georgian Dream kept its promise and 92 deputies backed the changes,” adding that ruling party MPs will vote for the amendments in the upcoming sessions as well. 

UNM lawmaker Roman Gotsiridze said Parliament’s decision to pass the reform bill was a “significant step,” adding that his party would back the amendments if “all clauses of March 8 Deal are fully implemented” by the Government.

European Georgia MP Davit Bakradze stated that votes of fellow lawmakers from his party cast in favor of the electoral reform were “decisive,” which he said would prevent the Georgian Dream from “deceiving the society” once more. He was referring to the unexpected failure to pass the Constitutional amendments last November, which was blamed by the ruling party on some majoritarian GD MPs going rogue. European Georgia also claimed that a similar scenario was considered by the Georgian Dream this time around.

Passing the electoral reform was part of a deal between the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition agreed on March 8, following negotiations facilitated by the EU, German and U.S. Ambassadors to Georgia.

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