Friday, April 23, 2021

Comic Situation Created in Relation to Draft Constitutional Amendments – Interview with Levan Natroshvili

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A draft of constitutional amendments has been registered in the Parliament of Georgia, which envisages lowering the electoral threshold from 5% to 3% for the 2024 elections and reducing the number of deputies required for the formation of a faction from 7 to 4. The amendments were prepared on the basis of the memorandum of the Georgian Dream and the Citizens. Against the background of the current political crisis, there is not enough MPs in the legislature at the moment to get it, 113 MPs. What is the purpose of initiating a project in the current situation and what is the perspective of the constitutional amendments? Levan Natroshvili, Transparency International Georgia Program Manager, answers RFE / RL’s questions.

RFE / RL: Mr. Levan, how timely is it to initiate constitutional changes when it is impossible to collect the 113 votes required to pass them in parliament at this stage?

Levan Natroshvili: A comic situation was created in the parliament. The changes were supposed to be initiated after a certain agreement was reached between the parties and the majority of the opposition, who owns the seats, would enter parliament. After that, of course, it would be logical to register such a change, since we know that it [ოპოზიციაში] He has supporters.

RFE / RL: Do you share the view that the constitutional amendments are another attempt to “lie” in the opposition parliament?

Levan Natroshvili: Is probably. Perhaps the ruling party has some hope that at least some of the opposition MPs will consider it necessary to enter parliament permanently, or at least temporarily, to support this project. There is another option, the ruling party knows that the opposition will not participate in the discussion and voting on the constitutional amendments and they will be blamed for the failure of the project. Maybe this is a strategy.

RFE / RL: There are currently only 96 deputies in the legislature. What prospects do you see for finding at least 17 MPs who will agree to vote?

Levan Natroshvili: It is difficult to predict, but in the configuration that we know, 17 deputies do not come out in any way without the support of the “National Movement”. I mean even a one-time login. We have heard from the representatives of the “Republican Party” that their support can be expressed only once. Girchi MPs may also support it. They often state that this is the main issue for them. However, collecting 17 MPs in the end is problematic. At least some part has to come from the parties that take the hardest position. This is the “United National Movement”, “European Georgia”. “Lelo” did not say in principle that he would enter the parliament for that. Therefore it will probably be very difficult, a maximum of a few MPs can enter, 17 seems too much.

RFE / RL: As for the essence of the constitutional changes, ie reducing the electoral threshold from 5% to 3% for the 2024 elections. Why do you think 3% and what would be the optimal threshold?

Levan Natroshvili: 3%, in my opinion, subjectively, would be quite optimal. Given that 5% seems to be a fairly high threshold, especially against the background when electoral blocs will no longer be allowed and small parties will not be able to group together to cross this threshold. In this case, they either threaten to disappear or have to integrate, to join other parties in order to grow, which can be a problem for many parties. So 5% is high, 3% is not very low either. There was also talk of a natural threshold, somewhere around 0.7%. I think it is very low and there will be so much fragmentation of mandates that if we look at the long term, at some point we may find it difficult to form a government in general. So I think this three percent threshold probably balances the two main principles wisely. This is, on the one hand, that the principle of representation will not be damaged and at the same time very few supporting parties will not be able to get into parliament. At the expense of this there will be more probability that a government crisis will not be created.

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