Georgia’s 2020 Elections
The 2020 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia: From a Mixed Electoral System to a Single-Party Government?
On October 31, 2020, citizens of Georgia cast their votes to elect a 150-member parliament. The 2020 parliamentary elections – long anticipated by both the ruling party and the political opposition – differed significantly from other parliamentary elections carried out in Georgia in the past due to one main reason: prior to 2020, Georgia utilized a majoritarian system to elect its MPs, which usually allowed the governing party to secure more seats in the parliament than it obtained votes. However, following a nearly five-month-long protest led by the political opposition and civic activists in the capital city of Tbilisi in 2019, the ruling party, Georgian Dream, ultimately agreed upon conducting the 2020 parliamentary elections according to a mixed electoral system, with a national threshold of only one percent necessary to secure seats. It was thought that the latter would facilitate creation of a legislative body more accurately reflecting an overall distribution of public support for different political parties.
Based on the election outcomes published on the following day, 9 political parties managed to pass a one percent threshold, with the Georgian Dream acquiring more than 48 percent of total votes. Claiming that the elections were “rigged” and, thus, the results did not accurately reflect Georgian citizens’ political will, the opposition demanded immediate invalidation of the election outcomes and scheduling snap elections instead. However, international observers, including the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS), the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), declared that while pervasive allegations with regard to vote buying reduced public confidence in some aspects of the parliamentary elections, the overall process was competitive and fundamental freedoms were respected. Therefore, foreign diplomats did not see the necessity in calling snap elections.
However, the political opposition seemed intransigent in its decision. In the beginning of November, all opposition parties, which had passed a one percent threshold, signed an agreement, rejecting the election results and refusing to enter the new parliament, while on November 8, thousands gathered in front of the Central Election Commission of Georgia, demanding snap elections. Maintaining that certain groups of protesters violated public order, the Georgian law enforcement, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, dispersed the demonstration late night of November 8, which led to a series of protest rallies in the days to follow. On November 12, in order to resolve the tension, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan hosted the first round of political dialogues attended by the leaders of 9 political parties. A week later, during his visit to Georgia, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly urged the political opposition to go into parliament and seek positive changes from within.
Still, after holding a third, yet unfruitful, round of talks on December 7, most of the political opposition refuses to enter the parliament, which they believe to be based on “rigged” elections. This will enable the ruling party, Georgian Dream, to form a single-party legislative body that, in its turn, may seriously impact Georgia’s further democratic advancement. However, with political dialogues still ongoing and some opposition politicians reconsidering their decision regarding entering the parliament, hope still remains that, perhaps, a single-party political crisis will somehow be averted?
Prepared by Tina Dolbaia
December 16, 2020
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