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Impact of the emergency situation on the upcoming parliamentary elections

March 24, 2020
Lana Giorgidze,

After almost four-month negotiations the ruling party and opposition political parties reached agreement on March 8. During the informal meeting in the residence of the US Ambassador to Georgia all parties signed the memorandum, according to which the 2020 parliamentary elections will be held with 120/30 system. The parties agreed that the parliamentary elections in 2024 will be hold with fully proportional system (what does the proportional election system mean – see the article published on 

EU Delegation in Georgia published the Memorandum of Understanding, according to which, the elected Parliament shall consist of 120 members elected through the proportional system and 30 members elected through the majoritarian system.  The electoral threshold for proportional elections shall be set at 1%. A capping mechanism will define that no single party that receives less than 40% of the votes cast is allowed to receive a majority of seats in the Parliament.  Further caps and provisions will be introduced in the legislation with the aim of facilitating a more proportional distribution of mandates relative to the votes received by the parties.

“The 30 electoral districts will be drawn in compliance with the relevant ruling of the Georgian Constitutional Court and the Venice Commission recommendation, suggesting that the deviation from the average electorate size of districts should not exceed 15%.  Preference should always be given to creating districts within the same region unless the distribution of the electorate requires otherwise.  Up to three limited exceptions from the above districting rules can be introduced throughout the country in the interest of encouraging the representation of ethnic minority groups, citizens residing in mountainous regions, or for accommodating particular geographic needs,” the memorandum reads. 

In accordance to the Memorandum, should there be early parliamentary elections between 2020 and 2024, the first such election will be held based on the election system guiding the 2020 elections.  Any subsequent elections will be held based on the fully proportional election system as foreseen for the 2024 Parliamentary Elections.

The chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia Archil Talakvadze stated at the March 9 briefing that the political negotiations between the opposition and the ruling party finished with positive results. 

“We reached political agreement on all main issues. With it, the ruling power – the Georgian Dream, demonstrated that our main value and priority is to ensure peaceful development, democratic principles and safety of our country. We believe that the agreement is the progressive decision for all parties and at the same time it was the request of our society. The decision showed that the democratic system of Georgia is ready for further development. We are preparing for the 2020 Parliamentary Elections,” Archil Talakvadze said. 

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili echoed the agreement reached between the opposition and the ruling parties and wrote on her official facebook page that the agreement shall be evaluated as a victory of the society. 

“The reached agreement shall be evaluated as a victory of the society. With this clever compromise and step, all conditions are created for the conduct of peaceful and fair elections. Peace, stability and democracy in the state is our common goal,” the President Salome Zurabishvili wrote. 

The memebrs of the ruling party, majoritarian MPs supported the 120/30 model except MP Kakha Okriashvili.

“I do not join this celebration over the reached agreement because I clearly see the negative impact of the proportioonal system on our country – coalitions, which will emerge, permanent snap elections which will hinder already weak economics of our country, and more. Then political responsibility of all those politicians will raise, who is celebrating now the reached agreement,” MP Kakha Okriashvili told TV-Company Maestro. 

On March 21, for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19, emergency situation was announced in the entire territory of Georgia. 

HRC analytic Giorgi Tkebuchava clarified that the emergency situation is temporary measure, which, in accordance to the Georgian legislation, is announced to ensure safety of the Georgian citizens in the course of military operations or mass disorder, military coup or armed rebel, ecological disasters and epidemics, natural disasters, huge accidents or other, when the state institutions are not able to normally implement their constitutional authorities. 

Giorgi Tkebuchava added that the purpose of the emergency situation is rapid normalization of the situation, restoration of legality and public order in the country: “Emergency or marital state in the country, of course, makes it impossible to conduct the draft amendments to the Constitution of Georgia without any obstacles; the candidates will be disabled to conduct pre-election campaign and political debates in normal environment.”

It is questioned what will happen with the election system-related constitutional amendments, which should be implemented in accordance to the Memorandum of Understanding.

Nongovernmental organization International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) clarified what kind of impact the emergency situation may have over the democratic processes in the country.

“In accordance to the Georgian legislation: elections are not held in the country during the state of emergency. If the emergency situation is announced only in one part of the country, the Parliament decides to hold the elections in the rest territory of the country or not. During the emergency situation, discussion of the draft constitutional law is suspended until the emergency state is cancelled that is particularly important restriction for the pending election system related amendments in the Constitution. It is not excluded that emergency situation may question adoption of any amendments before the elections; if the parliament is dismissed, if the election day does not coincide with the state of emergency, the elections are held no earlier than 45th and no later than 60th days after the emergency state is removed,” the ISFED statement reads. 

ISFED additionally clarified that it is inadmissible to consider the resignation of the president through impeachment if the President violates the Constitution of Georgia or commits any offence. “It is noteworthy that in the state of emergency, the President makes decision on the restriction of separate rights based on the decree and in case of the violation of the Constitution, it is impossible to launch impeachment proceduren against the President that increases risk that some decisions may be made through the violation of the Constitution.”

HRC analytic Giorgi Tkebuchava thinks that consideration of the constitutional draft law depends on the duration of the state of emergency. 

“Nowadays, there is a risk that the discussion of the constitutional amendments will not be conducted. Naturally, neither president, nor parliament and other institutions or government officials stop implementation of their duties. Furthermore, they must implement their duties with more responisbility and care. The government shall do its best to introduce the amendments to the Consitution promptly and use all possibility not to hinder the examination of the draft law. Besides that, public dicussions may be held online like it happened in Latvia. There is one-month timeframe determined for public discussions after what, in accordance to the existing situation in the country, the constitutional amendments will be examined in the Parliament. I hope, the Government will assume full responsibility over the execution of the March 8, 2020 Memorandum and in order to promptly move to the proportional election system, will use all constitutional means.”

Until the country fights against epidemics, the oposition political parties also pay less attention to the election issue. The discussion about the constitutional amendments will start after the state of emergency will end – on April 21.