Opposition postpones rallies following tragedy in western Georgia

  • Six individuals, including four minors, died in a fire in western Georgia yesterday.Photo: IPN. 

Agenda.ge, 4 Feb 2020 - 11:10, Tbilisi,Georgia

Opposition parties have postponed today’s demonstrations on election issues as six individuals, four minors, their mother and a relative, died in a fire in Bagdati municipality of western Georgia late yesterday.

It is a huge tragedy. We need to think about it and mourn,” leader of the European Georgia opposition party Gigi Ugulava stated earlier today, urging the ruling Georgian Dream party to also postpone the opening of the spring session in parliament today.  

Ugulava says that demonstrations demanding the early transition to a proportional electoral system from this year will renew starting tomorrow at parliament and governmental buildings.

Rescuers were unable to save the lives of the six as the fire spread fast through the wooden house, neighbors say, stating that the family was poor, with no gas and electricity, and the fire likely came from the fireplace.

Why did the protests begin?

Protests were sparked in Tbilisi in November 2019 after parliament rejected the ruling party proposed election bill on an early transition to a fully proportional electoral system starting from 2020 instead of speculated 2024.

The early transition was the promise given by the ruling party to the demonstrators in Tbilisi in June 2019, during the rallies which were triggered by the presence of Russian MPs in the Georgian parliament.

The opposition accuses the ruling party of deliberately rejecting the bill and is demanding the 2020 elections to be held per the “adapted German model,” which distributes seats in parliament based on votes received in proportional voting. 

Leader of the European Georgia opposition party Gigi Ugulava says demonstrations will renew tomorrow. Photo: reginfo. 

Ruling party officials have dismissed the accusations, stating that they were unable to convince the party’s majoritarian MPs to vote for the bill.

In December 2019 the ruling party offered a 100/50 model to the opposition for 2020 elections, which distributes 100 seats proportionally and 50 seats based on majoritarian race in the 150-member parliament.

The opposition says that the model is ‘unacceptable.’

  • The ruling party and the opposition have already held four meetings mediated by diplomatic corps to reach a consensus for the upcoming elections.
  • The date of the fifth meeting has not yet been announced.
  • Currently Georgia has a mixed electoral system, with 73 MPs elected in single-mandate constituencies [majoritarian elections] and remaining 77 based on proportional, party-list system.
  • The ruling party says that if no agreement is reached with the opposition on 2020 elections, the elections will be held per the current, mixed system, while the country will move to a fully-proportional electoral model starting from 2024, as the current Constitution reads.