Georgia: co-rapporteurs welcome willingness to seek Venice Commission’s opinion on Constitutional Court amendments

At the end of their visit to Georgia, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for the country, Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), have welcomed the intention of the Chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Georgian Parliament to send the proposed amendments to the laws governing the Constitutional Court to the Venice Commission for opinion, before they are discussed in second reading in the parliament.

“This should allay any fears that, when adopted, these amendments would inadvertently hinder the efficient functioning of the Constitutional Court. The important role of the Constitutional Court as an independent and impartial arbiter should be ensured. By being asked for an opinion in the next couple of days, the Venice Commission would be able to adopt its opinion at its June plenary session, which in turn would allow the parliament to take the recommendations of the Venice Commission into account when adopting the amendments in final reading before the end of this parliamentary session,” said the two co-rapporteurs.

Referring to the two separate proposals for Constitutional Amendments to change the current mixed proportional-majoritarian election system, the rapporteurs regretted that the different political forces had not been able to reach a consensus on the date these changes would be implemented. “As we have said previously, since 2007 the ruling majority and opposition, irrespective of their members, have been unable to reach a consensus on the electoral system, which has been a permanent source of tension in the political environment. We therefore urge all political forces to compromise now, in order to avoid that the same exact question will return during the run-up to the 2020 elections.”

The two co-rapporteurs also noted the many proposals for changes to the electoral code that are currently circulating. While welcoming any proposals that would increase public trust in the conduct of the elections, they also stressed the importance of the stability of the electoral framework in the months before the elections. They called on all political forces and other stakeholders to refrain from any actions or discourse that could negatively affect the democratic conduct and public trust in the forthcoming elections. “With the 2012 elections, Georgia set an example for the region. That trend should be continued in 2016,” said the co-rapporteurs.

During their visit the co-rapporteurs met with several representatives of minorities and organisations working on minority issues. They urged the authorities to continue unabated their efforts to fight discrimination and prejudice, and to strengthen tolerance for minorities in Georgian society. “This is especially important in the context of the forthcoming elections, with the risk of instrumentalisation of minority issues for ulterior motives, including by interests outside of the country,” they concluded.

The rapporteurs will visit Georgia again during the pre-electoral period in the framework of the observation of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, in order to assess the pre-electoral environment.