Georgia to hold unprecedented parliamentary election

Georgia to hold unprecedented parliamentary election

Georgia's parliamentary election in 2020 will be held under a proportional system, head of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili said.

Changing the electoral system from a mixed to a proportional system from 2020 was one of the demands made at protests that have been taking place in Tbilisi since June 20.

Speaking at a news conference after four days of demonstrations, Ivanishvili announced a "large-scale political reform". "The 2020 parliamentary elections should take place using the proportional system, with an electoral threshold of zero, I repeat, zero percent," he stressed.

According to Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, "Bidzina Ivanishvili has voiced an unprecedented decision."

The new constitution of Georgia reads that Georgia moved to fully proportional elections from 2024, which have been hailed as "unfair" by the opposition after the 2016 elections.

The 2020 parliamentary elections were supposed to be held through the existing mixed proportional and majoritarian system but with the election threshold lowered to 3% from 5%.

Political scientist Gela Vasadze, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the requirement to use a proportional system in the 2020 parliamentary elections has long been voiced by both Georgia's Western partners and the opposition. "The promises of transiting to the proportional system have been heard since 2003. In 2012. the Georgian Dream promised it will happen in 2016, but in 2016 they said it's not possible before 2024," he said.

"Now, a lively democratic process of the struggle between political parties begins in Georgia. It is interesting that the decision was made to nullify the electoral threshold, that is, even one person from the party can enter  the parliament. Why? I think, so that Bidzina Ivanishvili, which has practically unlimited financial resources in Georgia, would have an opportunity to bargain with various political forces and individual politicians," Gela Vasadze said.

"Thanks to the proportional system, coalitions will become mandatory. Of course, this is more difficult in terms of political and state management, but it will create a system of checks and balances. The fact is that now we are gaining invaluable experience of democracy, when different political parties compete with each other, and something depends on the voter, on the people," the expert emphasized.

A member of the ‘Expert Club of Georgia’ Vakhtang Maisaya said that this statement by Ivanishvili is intended to calm people down and stop the protests. "The protests are underway for 4 days, on behalf of which four demands were put forward to the ruling party: the resignation of Interior Minister Georgy Gakharia, a zero threshold  and the transition to a proportional electoral system, the release of those detained on the night of June 21 and the punishment of the security officials who went beyond authority. The United National Movement and European Georgia are trying to take advantage of the protests, while the four demands belong not to them, but to all the protesters, even supporters of the ruling party. In such a situation, Ivanishvili made a radical decision to calm tension and hold the Georgian Dream's position," he said.

It is important that the transition to a proportional system is taking place at a time when the positions of all political forces in Georgia are weakened. "The UNM and European Georgia do not have much influence on the electorate and may count on 15% of the population’s support. The Georgian Dream's position has noticeably weakened. If the elections were held today, the chances of, for example, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia would increase significantly. That is, they would receive 20–25%, the GD -  15%, the UNM and European Georgia - also 15%. But there are other parties that now may expect to have their deputies in parliament, at least in the minimum quantity. Georgia, in fact, returns to the system,introduced by Shevardnadze in 1991, and has a chance to get the Parliament like in 1993-1995," Vakhtang Maisaya concluded.