Opposition Vows the Protests Will Stop If Gov't Agrees to German Model of Elections

Despite the fact that representatives of opposition and civil activists continue demonstrations in front of the parliament building in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, the government has said it does not intend to change its position on replacing a mixed electoral system with a proportional one for the 2020 elections.

"The topic is closed. A mixed electoral system will be kept in 2020," Kakha Kaladze, the ruling party's Secretary-General, said in a statement made at the Georgian Dream headquarters.

He emphasized that members of the ruling team had expressed their attitude towards this issue publicly several times.

“However, since there is still political speculation around this topic, I would like to share our position with the public again in a few words: First, the transition to a proportional electoral system in 2020 was a political initiative of the Georgian Dream. Despite the efforts of the team leadership, unfortunately, the bill did not receive adequate support. This result, along with the natural resistance of the majoritarian MPs, also led to the irresponsible actions of the destructive opposition. Secondly, it is clear to all that, given the moods of the parliamentary majority, there are no resources available to mobilize 113 votes around any new constitutional changes at present. The topic is closed - in 2020 a mixed electoral system will be kept, which fully complies with democratic principles, therefore the political spectrum should devote all its efforts to preparing for the elections and holding the elections in accordance with high democratic standards," he noted.

Kaladze also noted that the Georgian Dream is ready to hold a plebiscite on the issue of the electoral system on the day of either the 2020 parliamentary elections or the 2021 local self-government elections.

“There is a group of majoritarian MPs in the parliamentary majority which is proposing to move to a fully majoritarian system. We told them that the team would not consider any new initiatives for the 2020 elections. However, we understand their general initiative and we agreed that they will continue to work in this direction, provided that a plebiscite will be held on the issue of the electoral system on the day of either the 2020 parliamentary elections or the 2021 local self-government elections,” he said.

The united opposition has proposed its own model to Parliament for a new electoral system.

Giorgi Vashadze, one of the leaders of the united opposition, told reporters that the model developed by them, based on the so-called German model, is consistent with the Georgian Constitution, expresses public opinion, gives preference to the proportional system and considers Georgian reality.

"The novelty of all this is that votes will be proportionally distributed among candidates; the majoritarian system will be maintained, but there will be multi-mandate majoritarian constituencies: 6, 7 or 8-mandate constituencies. Each voter will have one vote and, therefore, no political force will be able to seize power. The interest of each individual will be maximally expressed and, most importantly, the government will serve people and not authoritarians, who were unfortunately developed under the old system," Vashadze said.

"This document, which we have drafted, will be handed over to international organizations and will be initiated in Parliament. It needs only 76 votes, not a constitutional majority. This is a very easy way for Georgia to overcome, once and for all, the disastrous electoral system that exists in our country today. This document is fully in line with the Constitution. Our model is based on the 'German model,' which takes into account the Georgian reality. There will be a majoritarian system, but there will be multi-mandate majoritarian constituencies and the Georgian Dream will not be allowed to manipulate," Vashadze said, adding that the parliamentary session will be held peacefully only after their demand is satisfied.

Davit Bakradze, the leader of the European Georgia opposition party, stated that if the government agrees to adopt the so-called German model, the protests will stop.

“We, the responsible opposition, have taken responsibility for the protests to be peaceful and nonviolent. The way out [of the crisis] is the so-called German model. This is a model that ensures fair elections and which can be adopted within the next three weeks with 76 votes. If the government agrees to it by the end of December, the protests will stop and the crisis will end,” he noted.

Bakradze is convinced that the government has to make a compromise if the ruling party wants to return to normality.

Yet another demonstration was held on November 26 in front of the parliament building, which was again dispersed by police using water cannons, just as on November 18.

Law enforcers detained 28 people during the rally dispersal under Articles 173 (Non-compliance with the lawful order or demand of the law enforcement officer) and 166 (Minor Hooliganism) of the Administrative Offences Code.

Three citizens received various injuries. They were provided with the relevant care at medical institutions.

On November 28, there was a physical confrontation between law enforcers and protesters at the entrance to the parliament building after law enforcers blocked entrances to the building with metal structures for "security reasons." The clash started after protesters tried to graffiti the walls with messages. Three demonstrators were detained.

Elene Khoshtaria, one of the leaders of the European Georgia party, said that the police were "hunting" protest participants and that “Nothing will stop us. We are not afraid of being arrested," she said.

"These barricades will not separate the Georgian Dream from us, we will harass them everywhere, they will not get rid of us,” the protesters claimed.

Demonstrators in Tbilisi plan to continue the protest and say they will try picketing the parliament building again in order not to allow the Georgian Dream lawmakers to hold Parliament sessions.

Amnesty International, an influential non-governmental organization focused on human rights, has responded to the rally dispersals in Tbilisi and reports that some of the protesters sustained injuries as a result of the use of water cannons. One person is reported to have sustained an eye injury, with several head bones fractured.

“The use of water cannons was neither proportionate nor necessary,” Amnesty International wrote. “They may only be used in those situations in which it is strictly necessary to contain or disperse individuals or a group participating in a public assembly and when the level of violence has reached such a degree that law enforcement officials cannot contain the threat by directly focusing on violent persons only. Any decision to use them must also take into account contextual factors, such as extremely cold weather, which may exacerbate the harm they may cause,” reads the statement.

The protests in Tbilisi were sparked after the rejection of an election bill, proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, offering the transition to a fully proportional electoral system from 2020 instead of 2024.

The demonstrators accuse the current state leadership of "breaking its promise and cheating people" as the ruling party agreed to conduct the 2020 parliamentary elections using a fully proportional electoral system during the internationally renowned June protests in Tbilisi. Protesters demand a second hearing in Parliament on the proportional elections, and some are pushing for snap elections.

By Ana Dumdadze

Image source: France24

28 November 2019 18:40