The Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s (CoE) advisory body for legal affairs, adopted at its Plenary Session on October 6-7 the final opinion on the draft Constitution of Georgia.
In the final document, the Venice Commission repeats the assessments outlined in its September 22 preliminary opinion, except the following two points:
- The Venice Commission “welcomes” the commitment undertaken by the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia to initiate by October 25 and adopt by March 2018 additional constitutional amendments allowing the parties to form electoral blocs at the parliamentary elections in 2020, and scrapping the so called bonus system, which entails the transfer of votes of the parties that fail to cross the threshold entirely to the winner. The statement was missing in the preliminary opinion;
- The Venice Commission recommended that the period during which the Constitutional Court is unable to decide on electoral legislation is reduced. It also stated that the requirement of full consensus of the plenum of the Constitutional Court when deciding on constitutionality of the conducted elections is problematic and should be replaced by a requirement of ordinary or qualified majority.
The Venice Commission approved at its Plenary Session on June 16-17, at the request of the Parliamentary Chairman, an Opinion on the draft revised Constitution of Georgia. Shortly after the adoption of the Opinion, however, an amended version of the draft revised Constitution was submitted to the Parliament of Georgia, which adopted it at the second hearing on June 23.
The new version postponed the opposition-pushed and the Venice Commission-endorsed introduction of the fully proportional electoral system to 2024, instead of the initially-proposed 2020, prompting the rejection of the constitutional reform by all opposition parties, the President and non-governmental organizations.
Georgian authorities sent a repeat request for the Venice Commission opinion on September 6, following several failed attempts to renew dialogue with opposition on the constitutional reform.
On September 21, a day before the Venice Commission’s preliminary opinion and few days ahead the final vote on the draft constitution, the ruling party announced that the political parties would be allowed to form electoral blocs for the next parliamentary elections in 2020 and the country would transfer to the fully proportional system from 2024 without the electoral bonus system. A legislative proposal containing these provisions will be submitted to the Parliament in the near future and it will be approved before the end of the next parliamentary session as amendments to the new constitution text, which is pending President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s approval.