The Parliament was finally able to adopt the long-awaited constitutional amendments and establish new game rules for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, Georgia was included in the list of few countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the EU.
Constitutional Amendments Adopted
Amid June 29 extraordinary plenary session, the parliament of Georgia adopted constitutional amendments in the final reading by 117 votes. Therefore, a door into a new political reality opened. The following term parliament will be composed of 120 members elected via proportional system and 30 via majoritarian system.
In fact, there is a consensus in the country regarding proportional system: it is considered to be better as no party can govern and rule on its own. However, Georgia will completely switch to a proportional system only in 2024, but the model agreed upon for the upcoming elections is believed to be as close as possible to a proportional one.
Nevertheless, the main part of the opposition – United National Movement and European Georgia Party – did not participate in voting. The opposition members believe that the consensus agreement reached in March was not completely fulfilled by the government, since of one of the convicted, Giorgi Rurua, a Mtavari opposition channel shareholder, is still held in pretrial detention. The boycott of opposition parties came amid controversial opinions. Irakli Kobakhidze, the former head of the parliament, called the opposition “criminals” and “enemies of the state”. His words were echoed by the prime minister Giorgi Gakharia, who expressed his hopes that “national traitors” will not be part of the next parliament.
Updating the law on elections is also happening on a fast-track basis. Moreover, the draft bill includes gender quotas as well: every fourth candidate in a registered proportional list should be of the opposite sex.
Mediators in this process were ambassadors accredited in Georgia. It is obvious that Georgian government experienced significant pressure to enforce compliance with the memorandum signed by the parties. All of the ambassadors reacted positively to the constitutional changes adopted by the Parliament.
However, as soon as the constitutional amendments were approved, the political discourse got back on track. The most popular and “favourite” terms are still ones like “national traitor” and “criminal political power”.
“The following term parliament will be composed of 120 members elected via proportional system and 30 via majoritarian system”
National Debt Tripled
Georgia’s national debt has tripled since 2013. By the end of the year its total volume will reach GEL 27 bn, which makes up over 55% of the country’s GDP. By 2020 the debt had increased by GEL8 million. The growing debt is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession that followed, which is a typical situation for many other countries and their economies. Per capita debt makes up approximately $2500 in Georgia, which is not too much compared to other countries. However, with national debt growing and getting close to 60%, the country may face serious challenges taking into account its “credit rate”. It is quite possible that next year extra financial resources will be needed, which means that against the backdrop of the above-mentioned numbers bigger problems might appear.
EU Opens for Georgia
The EU Council started lifting travel restrictions and reopened its borders to 14 countries including Georgia. Their citizens, respectively, will be able to enter the EU starting July 1.
However, the EU states that this list of countries will be reviewed every two weeks and the situation will be monitored regularly. This information got positive feedback in Georgia. At the same time, the negotiations with EU member states on opening green corridors are ongoing, as the situation remains unclear.
According to Georgia’s prime minister Giorgi Gakharia, the full reopening of land border crossings has not been planned yet.
“We are not going to take hasty steps when reopening land border crossings. The movement of Georgian citizens as well as everything related to goods transportation is not problematic today at all… We provide unbelievable comfort to international companies and cargo companies. We monitor health of every truck driver for 72 hours while they remain in our country. The control is quite efficient. Still, full reopening of land border crossings has not been planned yet”, said Giorgi Gakharia.
“Reopening borders for tourists in both directions, this is not as simple as pushing a button, this is hard work”, said EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell. According to Hartzell, “it involves serious work with individual members of the EU, with commercial air transporters. This is a combination of key players, and we need to work with them. However, Georgia is on the list of safe countries, and this is its best starting point”
Photo: Voting in the Parliament of Georgia
Source: Georgian Parliament Website