Georgia proposes move to list based elections with no threshold in bid to end protests

Georgia’s ruling party has said that it will move to change national elections to a purely list based system in a bid to stop protests which have gripped the country.

The current system is a mixed one with 73 MPs elected from single member constituencies in a two round system where the winner needs more than 50% support. In addition, 77 MPs are elected through a national list with a 5% threshold. The lists seats are allocated purely on the basis of the proportional vote and do not take account of constituency seats won. This system was only put in place before the elections in 2012 and opponents believe it gives a disproportionate advantage to the ruling party which holds 115 of the 150 seats on 48% of the vote.

The next elections in Georgia are due in 2020 and Bidzina Ivanishvili, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has said that that no threshold should be applied to the list system. Abolishing a threshold would encourage small parties and create a fractured parliament with many different factions. It is a move likely to favour strong coherent government parties and enable them to keep control even if they see a drop in overall support. Had the 2016 election been held on a pure list vote with no threshold then there would likely have been ten factions elected to Parliament rather than the current four (and just two factions gained representation in the 2012 elections).

However protesters have said that this concession is not enough for them to end their action. They are calling for the interior minister to step down as well as the release of those arrested on June 20th – the first night of protests. 

There is also anger directed against Russia after a visit by Russian politicians during the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. Russia continues to have troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two areas recognised by the majority of the international community as Georgian territory.