Opinions of the Venice Commission
The Venice Commission considered that the constitutional reform process completes the evolution of Georgia’s political system towards a parliamentary system and constitutes a positive step towards the consolidation and improvement of the country’s constitutional order, based on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights. The Commission made the following recommendations:
- the legitimate aims of restrictions of the freedom of faith, confession and conscience should be redrafted in the light of the second paragraph of Article 9 ECHR;
- the prohibition of “creation of political parties on territorial grounds” (draft Article 23(3) should be removed;
- the requirement of full consensus of the plenum of the Constitutional Court when deciding on constitutionality of the conducted elections is problematic and should be replaced by a requirement of ordinary majority;
- the appointment of Supreme Court judges directly by the High Council of Justice without the involvement of Parliament, or their appointment by the President upon proposal by the High Council of Justice, would better guarantee the independence of those judges.
Measures taken by the State
On 26 September 2017, the Parliament of Georgia adopted at the third reading the draft revised Constitution. On 10 October 2017, the President of the Republic vetoed the constitutional bill and asked for the introduction of a fully proportional election system in 2020 and not in 2024, the abolition of the bonus system and to allow election blocks. On 13 October, Parliament overrode the presidential veto by 117 votes from the majority and adopted the constitutional amendments.
- Draft Article 16 concerning the Freedom of Faith, Confession and Conscience has been amended and the legitimate grounds for restriction mentioned in the previous version of the draft provision such as “national security”, “preventing crime” and “administering justice” which are not legitimate aims in the sense of the second paragraph of Article 9 ECHR have been deleted.
- The requirement of full consensus of the Plenum of the Constitutional Court when delivering judgment on the unconstitutionality of conducted elections has been repealed.
- the draft amendments maintained the election of Supreme Court judges by Parliament upon their nomination by the High Council of Justice.
- The prohibition of the creation of political parties on territorial principle is maintained.
Additional constitutional amendments initiated by 116 members of the Parliament of Georgia were adopted at the second hearing by the Parliament on 15 December 2015. According to an explanatory note on the draft constitutional law, the purpose of these amendments was to reflect the previous recommendations made by the Venice Commission in the new edition of the Constitution of Georgia. Those additional amendments were examined by the Commission in the Opinion 918/2018 which is a follow-up to Opinion 876/2017.
The constitutional revision adopted on 29 June 2020 as well as the legislative reform which followed provide that the parliament elected in the next parliamentary elections (31 October 2020) shall consist of 30 members elected under the majoritarian system and 120 members elected under the proportional system at national level, with a threshold of 1% for political parties, and, for electoral blocks, 1% multiplied by the number of political parties included in the electoral block. Moreover, the percentage of seats (proportional and majoritarian) a party can receive shall not exceed 1,25 times its share in the proportional votes.