Ten parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties, including the United National Movement and the European Georgia, sent on September 5 a joint letter to Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio, where they lay “full responsibility” on the ruling Georgian Dream party for the failure to reach the political consensus over the constitutional reform process.
The political parties began their letter with thanking the Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s (CoE) advisory body for legal affairs, for “the principled position” it has taken “on the importance of broad political consensus in the adoption of constitutional amendments in Georgia.”
The parties then said that the initial draft of the constitution, which was also submitted to the Venice Commission for its opinion, entailed the country’s transfer to a fully proportional electoral system in 2020, but the draft “was subsequently changed by the Georgian Dream single-handedly, two days ahead of it being put to a vote in Parliament, negating the work of the constitutional commission, the public discussions and the opinion of the Venice Commission.”
“The new version, approved by the Georgian Dream constitutional majority in parliament through two hearings (with all opposition factions boycotting the vote), retains the mixed electoral system of proportional/majoritarian elections in 2020 and proposes the transfer to a fully proportional system in 2024,” reads the letter.
The parties spoke on the cancelled political consultations as well, saying the opposition showed its “clear stance” that it was ready to engage in negotiations, but the ruling party “publically announced that it no longer saw any sense in dialogue, citing the opposition’s lack of interest in reaching consensus.”
“It became crystal clear that it is so overwhelmingly important to the Georgian Dream to maintain a mixed electoral system, to set an unfair distribution of so-called unallocated mandates, and to abolish the direct election of the President that it does not shy away from single-handedly adopting a constitution without buy-in from political parties and civil society organizations,” the parties also wrote.
The Venice Commission-proposed meeting between the Georgian Dream and the opposition in Strasbourg on September 6 was cancelled after the ruling party ceased consultations with the opposition parties, announcing further dialogue on the constitutional reform “senseless.”
On September 2, President Gianni Buquicchio issued a statement on the matter, saying that the Venice Commission is ready to issue a new opinion on the draft of the constitution, and encouraging the Parliament of Georgia, “before finally adopting the revised draft, to make changes in the light of this opinion and of the dialogue with all Georgian political parties.”