EU ambassador hopes for consensus on election bill, NGOs say bill must pass

 EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Harzel says that scrapping the bill may increase tension ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.Photo: EU in Georgia press office., 14 Nov 2019 - 12:35, Tbilisi,Georgia

EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell says that if Georgian political parties fail to retain consensus on the ruling Georgian Dream party proposed election bill this may “shake trust” between political parties.

Hartzell also says that scrapping the bill, which proposes to move to a fully proportional election system from 2020, might increase polarisation ahead of the elections.

The EU has abstained from voicing an opinion on whether or not a proportional system was the better option for Georgia in view of the 2020 parliamentary elections, since this is primarily the choice of the Georgian people and the political parties. Since summer, however, there has been a political consensus and a joint commitment to work in this direction. Against this background, I see a clear risk that going back on this commitment at this stage would be seen as breaking the trust among the political parties, the trust with wider segments of the population, and to again increase the polarisation in the run-up to the 2020 elections," Hartzell said. 

Top Georgian NGOs have urged the Georgian Dream ruling party to “keep its promise” and support the bill.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has expressed his hope earlier today that MPs “will fully share the responsibility assumed towards democratic development of the country,” and vote for the ruling Georgian Dream party’s proposed election bill, which stipulates a move to a fully proportional election system for 2020 instead of 2024.

NGOs have gathered earlier today to urge the ruling party to vote for the bill and the opposition to consolidate its forces for passing the bill. Photo: IPN. 

Passing the bill needs at least 113 votes in the 150-member parliament. The Georgian Dream has less than 100 MPs.

Georgian Dream MP Kakha Okriashvili, who opposes the bill, says that about 30 MPs of the ruling party will not vote for the bill.

The vote was meant to have taken place yesterday but was postponed as the ruling party requested a brief delay to hold a party meeting “to assure” that several of its MPs would support the bill.  

The opposition, who dislike several parts of the bill, say that they will vote for the bill anyway as they fear that the ruling party may scrap the bill and retain the mixed electoral system for the 2020 parliamentary race.  

The opposition has demanded the fully proportional elections for years as the “majoritarian election system favours ruling parties.”

The ruling party accepted the conduct of 2020 parliamentary elections on a fully proportional system amid the June public protests earlier this year, also offering a zero election threshold to calm crowds.