MPs should support the move to a proportional system

Today, on November 13, the Parliament of Georgia will be voting on first reading on a constitutional amendments bill that envisages holding the 2020 Parliamentary elections under a fully proportional system. Developments that took place on a plenary session on November 12, clearly suggest that some of the ruling party MPs intend to obstruct consideration of the constitutional amendments and bring the process to a deadlock in an artificial manner. As the plenary session began on November 12, it became evident that some ruling party MPs attempted to artificially heighten tensions, as demonstrated by their unethical remarks to opposition MPs and increased instances of verbal and physical confrontation. Later, when MPs began to discuss the ruling-party-initiated amendments on changing the electoral system, it turned out that the proposal was opposed by the very same majoritarian lawmakers who initiated the draft in the first place.

Replacing the existing parallel (mixed majoritarian-proportional) electoral system with a fully proportional system is one of the main public demands to the authorities with respect to Georgia’s democratic development. In response to the public appeals during large-scale rallies in June 2019, the ruling party and its chairman publicly pledged on June 24 to adopt the fully proportional representation beginning from the 2020 elections. After that, 93 MPs from the ruling party initiated a constitutional amendments bill, which went through respective legal procedures in the past few months, including nationwide public discussions. In the course of this process, the majoritarian MPs who are now against the move to a proportional system did not voice their opposition or express any divergent opinion about the draft they had initiated not even once.

Notably, the ruling party followed a similar pattern during the constitutional reform process in 2017, when some majoritarian MPs changed their opinion about the move to a proportional system from 2020 after they had already supported the initiative in the Constitutional Commission earlier. It seems that much like in the previous years, the principal reason for abandoning the comprehensive reform of the electoral system is the desire to maintain the majoritarian component of elections. This in turn speaks to the fact that the existing electoral system works in favor of the ruling party and that the incumbent does not want to give up the majoritarian component for the 2020 elections as a guarantee for securing high number of seats.

Holding the 2020 Parliamentary elections under a fully proportional rule is crucial for consolidating the country’s democracy. Proportional elections allow development of European-style multi-party democracy and provide an opportunity for healthier political process. Changing the electoral system will be an important step toward weakening the single-party control on state institutions, restoring balance between different branches of government and reducing political polarization. 

Therefore ISFED call on:

  • The ruling party and its MPs to fulfill their public pledge and support the constitutional amendments that will ensure holding of the 2020 parliamentary elections under a fully proportional system;
  • All parliamentary opposition parties to consolidate forces and mobilize their votes in support supporting the proportional electoral system.