Constitutional Changes

European Georgia Demands Plebiscite for Electoral System Changes

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Movement for Liberty - European Georgia is calling upon the government of Georgia to hold a plebiscite on the planned changes to the constitution of Georgia in regards to how the President should be elected and the election system.

According to the changes should they pass, citizens will not be able to directly elect the President, who will instead be elected by an electoral college of 300 electors. The president will be elected for a 5-year term.

Speaking with Rustavi 2, one leader of European Georgia, Giga Bokeria, said that the party would introduce the initiative to the public and the government next week.

He also further explained that “there would not be a legal problem, as we’re not talking about a referendum. A plebiscite can include two issues - questions would be formulated as ‘Do you want to elect the President or should Parliament do it’ and ‘would you agree with adopting an electoral system where mandates are distributed proportionally and not to the winning party’.”

Leader of European Georgia Davit Bakradze also commented on the matter saying that “constitutional changes that were suggested by just one political party won’t bring any good to the country, it will only deepen polarization and controversy. That’s why we think it is of the utmost importance to take steps which will reduce the risk of controversy and give voice to the main referee and source of government - the Georgian people”.

The abolishment of the Majoritarian system for parliamentary elections is also planned by the changes, however the party gaining the victory will have all the mandates that are left, which means that the winning party will be able to get more people in the Parliament than citizens decided.

Georgian Dream does not think that holding the plebiscite would be expedient. According to Georgian Dream MP, Akaki Zoidze citizens do not care whether they’ll elect the President or not.

In regards to Parliamentary elections, Georgia has a mixed electoral system. At the polling station, citizens cast one vote for a majoritarian candidate running in their district, and a second vote for a national party list. Seventy-seven seats in the parliament are distributed amongst the parties according to the proportion of list votes they receive. Parties must pass a minimum threshold of 5% of the vote in order to win seats in the parliament.

With the current majoritarian system, If none of the candidates for single mandate seats manage to pass the 50% threshold then a runoff vote is held between the two candidates who won the most votes. Seventy-three out of the 150 seats of the parliament are filled in this way.

The Georgian Dream have delayed plans to abolish the single mandate system till 2020, despite strong criticism of the system by the president, opposition parties, local and international organisations which have said that the system does not ensure a proportional distribution of votes.

The Constitutional Committee started its work after it was officially approved by the Parliament of Georgia on December 15th, 2016. The aim of the group was to discuss the changes to the constitution of Georgia. NGOs, opposition parties as well as the president were integral parts of the commission from the very beginning.

State for the People, United National Movement, Democratic Movement, Patriots’ Alliance and other opposition parties have also left the constitutional commission.

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