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NGOs Criticize Constitution Draft, Propose Further Debate
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Apr.'17 / 12:13

On April 21, seven non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were participating in the Constitutional Reform Commission released a joint statement ahead of the Commission’s final meeting scheduled for April 22.

The statement emphasized that although the amendments bring “a number of positive changes”, some serious shortfalls remain.

Distribution of Votes

According to the draft, the parliamentary elections are held by proportional system, based on party lists. The parties would have to clear the 5% threshold to seat an MP. Controversially, the votes of those parties that would fail to clear the threshold would go to the winner, rather than get distributed proportionally among all parties that have cleared the threshold. NGOs say this rule “will significantly increase the disproportion between the votes and mandates obtained by the party.”

“This approach greatly weakens the purpose [that was behind the] of abolishing the majoritarian electoral system and will compromise the principle of fair redistribution of mandates,” the statement reads.

Ban on Electoral Blocs

NGOs believe that banning the parties from forming the blocs ahead of elections would be “a radical measure that is not justified by the legitimate interest.” According to them these changes will be “especially unfavorable” to the political process as the 5% threshold is maintained. 

Cancellation of Direct Vote to Elect the President

According to the draft the President would be elected by the 300-member college of electors, which would include 150 MPs, as well as local and regional government representatives.

“Considering the quality of democracy in Georgia and the interests of voters, we believe that the president should be elected directly, especially in the conditions when the cancellation of direct presidential elections is not necessitated by [the intended transfer to] the parliamentary model [of governance],” the statement reads.

Definition of Marriage

The NGOs say that the proposed draft makes a “number of steps backwards in the area of human rights.” Specifically, they refer to a provision that defines marriage “as a union of a man and a woman with the view to starting a family.”

NGOs believe that in Georgia, where the LGBT groups have never made any requests for the marriage equality “such initiative can only be considered as populist, which aims to score political points by artificially accenting this topic.”

Positive Elements

The NGOs welcomed a provision that stipulates Georgia’s integration into “European and Euro-Atlantic structures” as an objective and tasks, the constitutional bodies to undertake all necessary actions to ensure country’s full integration into the EU and NATO.

NGOs also say that a number of human rights safeguards have been strengthened and improved, as well as guarantees of Constitutional independence for the Public Broadcaster, Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary.

Final Effort

NGOs recommended to discuss alternative proposals at the final meeting of the Commission on April 22.

“The Constitution as the Supreme Law of the State should be based on a broader public and political consensus that excludes disregard for critical positions of the members of the Commission and other members of the public,” the statement says.

The State Constitutional Commission, consisting of 73 members, among them experts and representatives of seven political parties, government agencies and non-governmental organizations, was established on December 15 and was tasked to offer its recommendations by April 30, 2017.

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