Political Deadlock After Broken Promise on Electoral System Change
Georgia’s ruling party’s failure to adopt the promised constitutional amendment on transition to a fully proportional representation for the upcoming 2020 elections has caused a political deadlock in the country. The Georgian Dream (GD) backtracking on their promise has been largely viewed as an attempt to cling to power and maintain unfair advantage over the opposition in the critical 2020 Parliamentary elections. Therefore, the November 14 failed vote has triggered a series of street protests and has significantly damaged citizens’ trust in the political process.
To provide a potential solution, opposition parties have jointly proposed a modification to the existing mixed electoral system with introduction of multi-member majoritarian districts (73 mandates) along with list PR (77 mandates) and the seat allocation method that takes the overall proportionality of results into account. The proposed model, while not an ideal alternative to the fully proportional representation, could provide an important sub-optimal solution and a ground for consensus as it does not require constitutional amendments.
Regardless, the ruling party seems reluctant to deescalate the situation and offer solutions to the current political deadlock. GD representatives have been dismissing opposition proposals as unconstitutional, claim that the “issue is closed” and maintain that 2020 elections will be held with the existing electoral system.
A dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition has been initiated by the EU Ambassador and other diplomats. While the first meeting on November 30 did not result in any breakthrough, it is important that these mediated talks continue to find a solution to the electoral system issue in order to ensure a peaceful process ahead of the crucial 2020 vote.
Election Code and Political Party Finance Reform
In parallel to the electoral system discussions, the Parliament of Georgia had been discussing changes to the Election Code and the Law on Political Union of Citizens with the aim of addressing OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. The relevant working group had been a generally inclusive platform for political parties and civil society to voice their views on the necessary changes to the electoral legislation. However, many of the recommendations both from the OSCE/ODIHR and domestic observers remain to be addressed. ISFED's analysis of the necessary changes to the Election Code and political party finance regulations can be found in the policy alert attached below.
What should be done?
The Georgian Dream must show readiness and engage in dialogue with the opposition parties to find a way forward from the current stalemate. The introduction of a proportional electoral system or modification of the existing electoral system in a way that ensures distribution of mandates reflecting the will of the voters is key for rebuilding trust and continuing the democratic process in the country.
What can the EU do?
- EEAS and the EU Delegation: Continue diplomatic efforts to bring together the ruling party and the opposition and facilitate dialogue for achieving a compromise solution on the electoral system for the 2020 elections.
- EP, EC, and EEAS: Increase engagement with the Georgian authorities to ensure that the pre-election environment provides for an equal playing field and necessary safeguards for democratic conduct of the 2020 parliamentary elections. During communication with the stakeholders in Georgia underscore the importance of conduct for democratic, free and fair elections.
- European Parliament: Closely monitor Georgia’s commitment to free and fair elections and the implementation of necessary reforms; use EURONEST, EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee and other formats, including debate and resolution on Georgia to highlight progress and shortcomings (if any) in Georgian authorities’ efforts to ensure the protection of human rights, a pre-election environment free from intimidation, vote buying, and misuse of administrative resources.
- EEAS, DG-NEAR, EP: Continue support to civil society, particularly election observer groups ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia.
The full policy alert can be found below