U.S., EU Urge Georgian Authorities, Opposition To Uphold March 8 Agreement

TBILISI — The U.S. and European Union ambassadors have called on Georgia’s ruling and opposition parties to uphold and implement a foreign-brokered deal on election reforms after more than two months of failing to move forward.

In a statement, the facilitators of the deal said it was intended to “depolarize” Georgia’s political system and “create a better environment” for October parliamentary elections following the failure of promised constitutional amendments to move to fully proportional parliamentary elections in 2020.

“We note that this agreement is composed of two parts — one focused on the election system and the other on addressing the appearance of political interference in the judicial system,” the statement said, adding that “we call upon all sides to uphold the letter and spirit of both parts of the agreement with a view to its successful implementation.”

The statement comes after Georgian parliament speaker Archil Talakvadze appealed to U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan, German Ambassador Hubert Knirsch, and chief EU diplomat Carl Hartzell to provide an “objective assessment” of the role of each signatory in putting the agreement into practice.

At issue is a memorandum of understanding signed on March 8 in which the two sides agreed that parliament will consist of 120 members elected through a proportional voting system, while 30 members will be elected through a majority system, where the party or candidate winning more than 50 percent of the vote in a constituency is awarded the contested seat.

It also says that the electoral threshold for proportional elections will be set at 1 percent and that a capping mechanism will mean that no single party receiving less than 40 percent of the votes cast will be allowed to hold a majority of seats in parliament.

Under the current electoral system, 73 of 150 parliamentary seats are claimed by candidates who finish first in district races. The remaining seats are distributed proportionally to the national share of the vote that a party wins.

This led to Georgian Dream, led by its billionaire founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, winning 76 percent of the legislature’s seats even though it won just less than half of the popular vote.

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