The United States and the European Union have thrown their support behind Georgia’s anti-government protesters who took to the streets of the capital Tbilisi after the country’s parliament failed to pass an amendment that changes the voting system to proportional representation.

In a joint statement released on Monday, they expressed “full support for the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

The delegation of the European Union in Georgia and the embassy of the United States of America recognize the “deep disappointment” of the Georgian people due to the inability of the parliament to adopt amendments that will ensure the transition to full proportional representation from the existing mixed system in the 2020 elections.

“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 statement said.

The statement called the decision taken last summer to switch a majority system of proportional representation “an important step forward in Georgia’s democracy.”

“The unexpected halting of this process has increased mistrust and heightened tensions between the ruling party and other political parties and civil society,”  the statement said and calls on all parties “to act in the country’s best interest.”

Several thousand Georgians gathered in the centre of Tbilisi to protest against the ruling party and demand early elections. The protest rally began a few days after the ruling party Georgian Dream, which makes up the majority in the parliament, failed to keep their promise and pass the planned electoral reforms.

The change was originally supposed to happen in 2024, but the opposition demanded that it be implemented in time for the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2020 as the opposition believes that the current system only supports the Georgians Dream.

The Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, has been in power since 2012. The party has lost most of its popularity amid a slowdown in economic development and major rollbacks to democracy, the rule-of-law and the party’s pro-Russian policies.