The appointment of Giorgi Kvirikashvili as the Prime Minister of Georgia and the subsequent change in the negative rhetoric (as opposed to his predecessors) caused the Non-Parliamentary Opposition Inter-Party Group for Election Systems Reform to have positive expectations. The group requested a consultation with the Prime Minister and together they agreed to create a joint working group on elections issues. A meeting was held between the Prime Minister and Mamuka Katsitadze on 14 April 2016. The main topic of discussion was the package presented by the non-parliamentary opposition aiming to improve the electoral environment. The package included the following issues:
- Electoral system, one main and two reserve systems presented
- Rules for making up electoral administrations
- A decrease in electoral thresholds by 1% (according to the current regulations 4% of votes are necessary to enter local governments, 3% to attain the status of a qualified subject and 5% to enter the Parliament)
- Even distribution of TV advertising times and giving voice to a much wider spectrum of parties
- Banning the use of administrative resources during elections campaigns
The Government of Georgia’s final position about the package for the improvement of the electoral environment was presented on 19 April 2016. Mamuka Katsitadze expressed his disappointment after a meeting with the Parliamentary Majority: "The propositions have been divided, trimmed and narrowed down. I had mildly positive expectations but I could not have imagined that the response of the Georgian Dream coalition would be this negative. All of our propositions about the electoral system have been rejected. The proposition about electoral administrations has also been rejected whilst the suggestion about TV advertising time has been extremely altered."
As was foreseen, the expectations of the non-parliamentary opposition parties were not met. The leader of the New Rights party underlined that the legitimation of the 2016 Parliamentary elections is facing serious problems. Consequently, the non-parliamentary opposition failed to obtain the desired results by working with the Prime Minister and make real changes to the electoral system for the 2016 elections.On 21 April 2016, the Non-Parliamentary Opposition Inter-Party Group for Election Systems Reform presented a specific electoral system model. The presentation was attended by the parliamentary opposition parties as well. The New Political Centre – Girchi also presented its model of a new electoral system. Specifically, the non-parliamentary opposition presented the so-called German electoral model whilst Girchi proposed a multiple-mandate majoritarian model. It should be pointed out that the adoption of these changes does not need constitutional amendments and can be put into action given at least 76 votes in the Parliament (FactCheck wrote
about the aforementioned electoral models earlier as well). Some of the opposition believes that they now have a chance to obtain a majority in the Parliament and change the electoral system given the dissolution of the Georgian Dream coalition.At the presentation meeting both the parliamentary as well as non-parliamentary opposition parties stated that they would definitely agree upon a suitable electoral system. FactCheck
contacted the opposition parties on 28 April 2016. In their conversations with us, Mamuka Katsitadze and Zurab Abashidze stated that the opposition has so far failed to agree upon a compromise electoral system; however, negotiations are still on-going. Girchi has already registered its choice for an electoral model in the Parliament.
With regard to the propositions of the opposition parties, the positions of two former members of the Georgian Dream coalition, the Republican Party and the National Forum, are highly important. According to the statement of one of the leaders of the Republican Party, Davit Berdzenishvili: "It is highly improbable that constitutional amendments can be made before the 2016 Parliamentary elections as the Georgian Dream does not support this and it is impossible to get 113 votes otherwise. Hence, we will have a question of whether or not we can impose a better, more democratic, more just and proportional model within the confines of the current Constitution upon which the Parliament of Georgia would actually agree. I think that the so-called German model is quite interesting in this regard. The National Forum also supports this model. One of its party members, Ani Mirotadze, stated that this model is acceptable for them and she believes that their party should support it."
The Republicans have already proposed the so-called German model to the Parliament. As for the positions of the United National Movement and Girchi regarding this model, Mikheil Machavariani stated that they also have their own preferred model; however, they are ready to set it aside if that would help remove the current system. According to Girchi member, Pavle Kublashvili, they are also ready to join the consensus if the rest of the parties decides to support one specific model. The German model is supported by the Free Democrats as well. Hence, as of 19 May 2016 it is possible that almost all parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties will gather around the so-called German model.
On 28 April 2016, a discussion by first hearing was started on two separate projects concerning constitutional amendments. The first one was registered in the Parliament on 9 September 2015, initiated by the signatures of 200,000 voters. The aforementioned bill provides for the abolition of the majoritarian system and replaces it with a regional proportional system. A constitutional majority (three-quarters of the votes) is necessary to adopt these changes. This is practically impossible as the Parliamentary Majority is against the abolition of the current electoral system in 2016.
The second project discussed by the Parliament was registered on 3 September 2015. It was initiated by 81 MPs from the Georgian Dream coalition. This project provides for the decrease in the electoral threshold from 5% to 4% although any more substantial changes to the electoral system will be postponed until 2020. It should be pointed out that the Parliamentary Majority does not hold the constitutional majority and so this bill is also doomed to failure if the opposition parties refuse to support it. The support of the United National Movement would be necessary to adopt the changes; however, the UNM does not support putting off the changes until 2020.
Despite the fact that voting has not yet commenced due to the lack of a quorum, it is clear that the bills of both the opposition and the ruling party will fail. Hence, the core changes to the electoral system which must also be added to the Constitution will not take place in 2016. The majoritarian system will not be abolished and the threshold will not be decreased from 5% to 4% with no other important changes will being made as well. Reforming the electoral system will be the task of the next Parliament.The so-called German model is not yet being discussed in the Parliament. In order to adopt this bill, a full consolidation of the Parliamentary Opposition and the former members of the Georgian Dream coalition is necessary. This, however, is still questionable.