Formal Procedures Launched for Draft of Constitutional Changes for Post-2016 Elections
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 21 Sep.'15 / 11:25

Parliament has launched formal procedures for Georgian Dream ruling coalition-initiated draft of constitutional charges to scrap the majoritarian component of the electoral system for the elections that will be held after the 2016 parliamentary polls.

Parliament endorsed on September 18 ten-member commission, which will lead one-month of public discussions of the proposed constitutional changes – a formal process required for any constitutional amendment before it is put on vote in the Parliament.

The proposed changes are not likely to be approved by the Parliament as they are opposed by the lawmakers from the UNM and Free Democrats opposition parties, who want scrapping of the majoritarian component of the electoral system before next year’s parliamentary elections, not afterward.

The GD ruling coalition has 86 seats in 150-member parliament, 27 short of the three-fourths super-majority required to pass a constitutional amendment.

A group of parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties are launching a campaign to collect the signatures of 200,000 citizens required for initiating a rival bill for constitutional changes to scrap the majoritarian part of the electoral system before the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Georgia currently has a mixed system in which 73 lawmakers are elected in 73 majoritarian, single-mandate constituencies through plurality vote, and rest 77 seats are allocated proportionally under the party-list contest among political parties, which clear 5% threshold.

According to the GD-proposed bill of constitutional amendment, majoritarian component of the system should be scrapped by the time of elections, which will be held after the 2016 parliamentary polls – that is by 2020, in case there are no early elections. The parliament, according to the proposal, should be entirely elected through proportional system in multiple-member voting districts. The bill also envisages lowing electoral threshold from 5 to 4%.

In a separate proposal, which has yet to be formally initiated as draft amendments to the electoral code and which does not requires constitutional changes, the GD ruling coalition offers to keep the majoritarian system for the 2016 elections, but to replace plurality vote to elect majoritarian MPs with majority vote. That entails increasing the vote threshold required for an outright victory in the first round from the current 30% to 50%.

The plan also includes redrawing single-mandate districts to provide equality of suffrage – that would put the system in line with the constitutional court’s May 28 ruling, which said that current division of single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies, which vary from each other by number of voters – ranging from over 150,000 voters in the largest one to less than 6,000 voters in the smallest one – undermines equality of vote.

Ten-member commission, which will lead one-month of public discussions of the proposed constitutional changes, includes five Georgian Dream lawmakers; two independent lawmakers – Pavle Kublashvili and Giorgi Gachechiladze, and three civil society representatives. Opposition lawmakers from UNM and FD have boycotted the commission.

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