Georgians Call For Profound Political Changes, Transition To Proportional System

Fuad Muxtarlı Review 21 November 2019
Georgians Call For Profound Political Changes, Transition To Proportional System

The Georgian parliament has failed to approve draft constitutional amendments, envisaging a complete transition to a proportional electoral system, initiated by the ruling Georgian Dream party. Thus, the parliament broke the promise given to the June 2019 protesters by the Ivanishvili government.

In protest at this decision, a majority of the deputies left the parliamentary majority, including several chairmen of parliamentary committees. The opposition took to the streets to protest and urged supporters to mobilize completely. Politicians are convinced that the informal ruler of the government Bidzina Ivanishvili is behind these processes.

A total of 101 deputies, including those from the opposition, supported the transition to a proportional electoral system. Three parliamentarians voted against the draft law. However, 113 votes were necessary for the draft law to be passed.

The failure of the bill caused noise and excitement in parliament. The transition to a proportional system was one of the main requirements of the protesters in June 2019 in the center of Tbilisi. At that time, the informal leader of the country and the chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, promised to fulfil this requirement.

Two months ago, Georgian Dream registered a draft package of constitutional amendments on the transition to a proportional system. The document was signed by 93 deputies from the majority. However, after the start of the debate, it turned out that some of the deputies “changed their minds” and considered the changes “a threat to the country” and would not support the amendment.

However, few in Georgia believe that until recently, deputies of the Georgian Dream, including those close to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s business, dared to rebel against their leader even on such a fundamental issue as the constitutional amendment. The opposition and civic activists gathered outside the parliament building and urged everyone to take to the streets.

“Complete mobilization has been announced, come to parliament,” said Shota Digmelashvili, one of the organizers of the June protests. Seven deputies from the ruling party - Vice Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili, Irina Pruidze, Georgy Mosiashvili, Dmitry Tskitishvili, Tamar Khulordava and Sofio Katsarava - decided to leave the Georgian Dream and their posts in parliament. “These amendments were very important to us, no matter what caused the failure of this constitutional amendment,” he was quoted as saying.

We have no choice but to leave parliamentary positions and the majority, since the failure of this amendment is a very difficult issue for which we cannot take responsibility,” Tamar Chugoshvili said. MP Zviad Kvachantiradze, who left the Georgian Dream a few months ago, called this process “political intrigue”. Also, the former deputy from the majority, Eka Beselia, described the events as a “fatal mistake”.

David Bakradze, the leader of the European Georgia opposition party, said the opposition would discuss how the ruling party would respond to this step: “We entered and survived the worst political crisis. Unfortunately, all of us, all of Georgia, will pay a heavy price for this. But the price must be paid by those who created this crisis - Georgian Dream, its political leadership and personally Bidzina Ivanishvili. So, in the coming days, we will discuss the steps. I will not rule out anything starting with a boycott of the election. Our steps will be sharp. By its actions, Georgian Dream did not leave us an alternative.”

Today, the Georgian parliament is elected by a mixed system - half of the 150 deputies are elected by party lists, the other half - by majority single-member constituencies. The opposition and civic activists believe that the current system cannot adequately reflect the will of the voters, as in the majority districts, the party in power traditionally takes advantage.

The transition to a fully proportional system was one of the campaign promises of the Georgian Dream in 2012, however, after coming to power, the party decided to postpone the change in the electoral system until 2024.

Former prime minister, chairman of the political association Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is disappointed with the results of the vote in the country's highest legislative body, which turned out to be a failure of the change in the electoral system.

He noted that the initiative to hold parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for next year according to a proportional system with a zero electoral barrier, has not been implemented. “Despite this, the events that took place this summer, the fair protest of part of the public, were followed by an absolutely adequate reaction of the ruling team.

The Georgian parliamentary speaker assumed political responsibility and resigned. And the Georgian Dream came out to the public with an important initiative - to hold the parliamentary elections of 2020 according to the proportional system with a zero electoral barrier, Ivanishvili said. But in any case, a new political crisis is under way in Georgia, and time will tell how it will end.

People of the older generation remember well the Leninist definition of a revolutionary situation, that is “for a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for the lower classes not to want to live in the old way; it is also necessary that the upper classes should be unable to live in the old way”. So, everything is exactly the opposite with Georgia, the lower classes almost cannot live the old way, but the upper classes do not want to give up power for anything.

This and only this explains the recent decision not to switch to a proportional election system. Immediately after Georgia witnessed an unexpected for many the “riot” of the majority deputies from the ruling party to fail the constitutional changes, according to which the 2020 parliamentary elections would be held under a proportional system.

Many of those who hate the current Georgian authorities then said - well, we knew that. However, the assessment of what happened with the phrase “we knew so”, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, stems precisely from ignorance of the situation. For those who were in the know, a completely different question arose - why?

Why would the authorities, instead of calmly accepting the budget and leaving for the Christmas holidays, suddenly aggravate the situation in the country and cause a wave of negative criticism from abroad.

The most likely answer to this question is then that the authorities well calculated the risks of switching to a new election system and decided for themselves that these risks are much higher than possible destabilization in the country. However, now it makes no sense to discuss the incentives of the authorities, it is much more interesting to see what we have on the way out.