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US, EU urge Georgian authorities and opposition to engage in dialogue amid protests

The US embassy and the EU Delegation to Georgia are concerned by the failure of a constitutional reform aimed at moving the republic to a system of proportional representation at the parliament election in 2020 and calling on authorities and opposition to launch dialogue to restore trust, the diplomatic missions said in a joint statement issued on Sunday.

“The Delegation of the European Union to Georgia and the Embassy of the United States of America recognize the deep disappointment of a wide segment of Georgian society at the failure of Parliament to pass the constitutional amendments required to move to fully proportional parliamentary elections in 2020. The decision taken last summer to accelerate the transition to proportional elections was understood as an important step forward in Georgia’s democracy, and there was political consensus behind it and a joint commitment from all sides to work towards this end. The unexpected halting of this process last Thursday has increased mistrust and heightened tensions between the ruling party and other political parties and civil society,” the statement reads. “In view of the current situation, we consider it essential to immediately work to restore trust through a calm and respectful dialogue between the government and all political parties and civil society with a view to finding an acceptable path forward.”

The missions also expressed their support to a mass protest rally of opposition held at the parliament building in Tbilisi. “We fully support the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We call on all parties exercising this right to do so in a lawful manner and within the framework of the Constitution,” the embassies said. “We encourage all sides to act in the country’s best interest,” the statement concludes.

Dozens of opposition parties took part in a mass protest rally in Tbilisi at the parliament building on Sunday, calling for a snap election using a system of proportional representation. At the rally, leaders of the United National Movement and Movement for Liberty – European Georgia parties decided to picket all entrances to the parliament to stall members of parliament. They attached chains and locks to the entrances and set up camps. The opposition pledges to unlock doors after deputies have gathered in the parliament to call a snap election and introduce amendments to the legislation that will ensure that it is held using the proportional representation system.

The protests erupted in Tbilisi after the parliament failed to approve constitutional amendments on November 14 to hold a proportional representation election in 2020. For amendments to pass, 113 members needed to support them out of 150, while only 101 members voted for the changes. It was mainly members of parliament representing the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party who were elected in first-past-the-post constituencies that abstained in the vote.

Protestors are blaming chair of the ruling party Bidzina Ivanishvili for what happened even though it was him who announced in June that the country was moving away from the mixed election system to a fully proportional one. Protestors were rallying in front of the parliament for three month, demanding that the next election was held under the new proportional representation system. The upcoming election is scheduled to take place in October 2020.

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