The Parliament of Georgia led by the Georgian Dream party adopted the constitutional amendments with 115 votes in the first and second reading on 22 and 23 June without consent from the opposition parties. The parliament is about to adopt the changes after its third and final hearing.
The parliamentary opposition United National Movement and the European Georgia, along with the Alliance of Patriots, refrained from taking part in the voting.
While the UNM and Patriots boycotted the hearing, European Georgia walked out of the parliament as a sign of protest on 21 June.
The ruling party has attracted criticism from local non-governmental organisations, which claim the government did not consider key notes they had recommended and the constitution was revised without public participation.
15 civil society organisations, which worked with government officials and opposition figures on the amendments under the State Constitutional Commission, also boycotted the parliamentary discussions, claiming the government is still acting ‘without public consent’, ‘at its best interest and ignoring others’.
The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe composed of independent experts in constitutional law, published recommendations on the draft of the revised constitution on 19 June. However, the Georgian Parliament adopted the amendments on its first hearing three days after the recommendations were published. Local journalists also reported that the parliament voted yes without an extended organic discussion.
The head of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Mikheil Benidze said during an interview with Georgian TV channel Iberia that the ruling party ‘practically neglected the Venice Commission recommendations’.
Local branch of Transparency International (TI), global civil society organisation fighting against corruption, started a campaign against the hasty adoption of the changes. TI urged citizens to send messages to the members of Parliament, saying ‘it is unacceptable that only one political party changes the constitution’.
There are more than fifty articles changed or updated in the latest draft. The current constitution consists of 109 articles, while the updated version has 78 articles. Some articles from the previous constitution were removed, some were added, and some — merged.
The changes include a shift to indirect election of the president, which will be activated after 2023. According to the draft amendments, the president will be chosen by an election board consisting of 300 electors (khmosani).
After 2024, parliamentary elections will be held only under proportional electoral system with the mixed majoritarian-proportional system abolished. However, 2020 parliamentary elections will still be held under the mixed system.
[Read more: Georgia’s constitutional changes explained]