Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and a group of twenty opposition parties developed a joint document on constitutional amendments and sent it to the ruling Georgian Dream party and the Venice Commission for consideration.
The document, unveiled by President Margvelashvili at his press briefing on September 19, involves the following proposals:
- Introduction of the fully proportional electoral system in 2020 (instead of the ruling-party proposed 2024) and maintaining direct presidential elections;
- Allowing the electoral blocs and decreasing the electoral threshold from current 5% to 3%:
- Maintaining the National Security Council as a constitutional body;
- Strengthening the parliamentary oversight mechanisms through maintaining the norm, which mandates the Prime Minister to present for parliamentary confidence the new composition of the Government if one third of its initial composition was renewed; and
- Enhancing the judicial independence through presidential appointment of Supreme Court judges.
“Every political party has given up something and the main goal has been achieved – consensus was reached. Now the document will be sent to the Georgian Dream and the Venice Commission, hoping that as a society, as a political culture, we manage to find a common ground,” President Margvelashvili noted.
The joint document was met with criticism from the ruling party. “I do not know whether it is possible to give a serious answer to this initiative since it involves a new definition of consensus, when the majority, which has been elected by the people for making decisions, should now distance itself from the process and someone else, who has no legitimacy, should write the constitution. It is a nonsense,” Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili told reporters.
On September 11, President Giorgi Margvelashvili invited the opposition parties to revise those provisions of the Georgian Dream-proposed draft constitution, which the ruling party and opposition failed to reach consensus on, slightly over a week after the ruling Georgian Dream announced further talks with the opposition “senseless,” followed by the Venice Commission’s statement that “the repeated failure of the Georgian parties to reach consensus on the revised Constitution through negotiations is disappointing.”
The Parliament of Georgia adopted the constitutional amendments with its second reading on June 23. The third and the final hearing will be held in late September, shortly after the Venice Commission submits its preliminary opinion on the revised draft of the constitution.
Opposition parties have been criticizing the ruling party for its “single-handed” changes to the draft constitution, including its decision to backtrack on the opposition-pushed and the Venice Commission-endorsed introduction of the fully proportional electoral system for 2020.