Civil society representatives would like to respond to the resumption of the dialogue between political parties and welcome the active role which our European partners have played in this process. An agreement based on the six points proposed through the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel would help us overcome the crisis. We believe that the current political crisis can be resolved through concrete steps designed to defuse the current situation and implement institutional reforms for the country’s democratic development.
The political crisis became particularly acute during the electoral campaign. The country lacks a balanced system of separations of powers. The Parliament has become an extremely weak institution incapable of exercising effective control over the executive branch. The opposition does not enjoy the power to use effective mechanisms of parliamentary control and its role is essentially ignored. The justice system does not function according to the principles of rule of law and the public’s trust in it is very low. The law is often applied selectively and politically motivated investigations are common. The arrest of Nika Melia, chairman of the largest opposition party, was a clear demonstration of this. There are irrefutable signs of high-level corruption. Society and the media are extremely polarized. An environment full of aggression often prompts people to resort to violence, as demonstrated clearly by the assault on journalist Vakho Sanaia. The economic and social crisis caused by the pandemic has further aggravated the situation in the country.
The current political crisis would have been defused immediately, had there been independent institutions operating according to the law. However, unfortunately, they have mostly acted based on political orders. The improper work of all public institutions (the Central Electoral Commission, the Internal Affairs Ministry, the State Security Service, the judiciary, and others) during the parliamentary elections was a clear example of this.
Building independent institutions in Georgia must undoubtedly be the most important objective in the future so that the state can address existential threats effectively.
Clearly, the resolution of these and other problems requires a high degree of society’s consolidation, as well as identification of its most important goal as a prerequisite for our country’s progress. Because of this, it is vitally important for the ruling party to have a sense that it bears primary responsibility for the events unfolding in the country. It must demonstrate the political will to take concrete steps to defuse the tension in the country, end the polarization, and divide power through democratic reforms. It is also important for the opposition not to refuse to participate in the political process once the government takes concrete steps toward dialogue.
The representatives of civil society signing this statement call on the ruling party to immediately ensure de-escalation of the situation and commencement of democratic reforms in order to facilitate our country’s progress. It is necessary to involve the opposition and civil society in this process and to take, along with an agreement on potential early elections, all the steps that will start an essentially new phase of the country’s development, will ensure the establishment of a system of checks and balances that will prevent political influence of public institutions in the future, and will render the country’s European integration irreversible. We believe that a number of important steps have to be taken to resolve the crisis:
- In order to defuse the situation, restore trust, and create an environment conducive to negotiation opposition party leader Nika Melia and Giorgi Rurua, a shareholder in a TV station whose editorial policy has been critical toward the government, must be released from custody. Prosecution of leaders of political parties and the media outlets critical of the government, as well as against the defendants in the so-called cartographers case, must end.
- A genuine electoral reform must be implemented. The new electoral reform must increase the trust in the electoral process both among the voters and the parties. As part of the reform, the rules for the selection of the members of the central, the district, and the precinct electoral commissions must change. Electronic voting systems must be introduced. An electoral system reform must be implemented for the local elections. The current parliamentary electoral system must be replaced by a fully proportional system with a lower threshold.
- The Parliament’s oversight role must be strengthened and the opposition must be given certain levers of influence over the political process.
- It is important to have the electoral irregularities investigated and analyzed by a parliamentary investigative commission involving all parliamentary parties and enjoying public trust. It is necessary to have an opposition representative serve as the commission’s chairperson, while the ruling party must accept all of the commission’s recommendations. The question of responsibility of particular officials must be considered based on the commission’s findings.
- It is important to expand the Parliament’s oversight role and to ensure opposition’s comprehensive involvement in the decision-making process. It is necessary to adopt amendments to the Georgian Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, so that the opposition is granted the power to appoint the chairpersons of several committees. Based on the practices of advanced democracies and the Venice Commission’s latest recommendations, the minority must control the Budget and Finance Committee. Also, given the problems in Georgia’s justice system, it would be appropriate to have opposition representatives preside over the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committees. According to the Venice Commission’s recommendation, the opposition must have a special role in the oversight of the defense and security sphere. It is also possible to divide the committee chairperson posts proportionally between the majority and the minority.
- Steps Must be taken toward the justice system’s independence.
- There has been growing talk recently about politically motivated investigations and arrests. It is necessary to reach an agreement on the appointment of a neutral persons as general prosecutor, to change the rules for the general prosecutor’s appointment, and to increase the parliamentary minority’s role in this process.
- It is important to implement a genuine judicial reform, taking into account the recommendations of our Western partners and the nongovernmental sector. The reform must ensure deconcentration of power within the justice system through greater autonomy of judges. This process will help increase trust in the electoral process and improve the investment climate, which is particularly important during the electoral crisis.
- It is important to appoint neutral and qualified judges to the Supreme Court and to adopt a political decision to appoint candidates through consensus. These candidates must have no ties to an influential group of judges, the so-called clan.
- The rules for the appointment of the members of the High Council of Justice must change and a minority of judges must have the possibility of having its candidate elected to the council. Also, a transparent process designed to facilitate consensus between political process must be in place when parliament appoints non-judge members of the council. The terms of a majority of the council’s members will end soon, which creates a unique opportunity for appointing neutral and deserving candidates to the managing body of the judiciary.
- An effective anti-corruption reform must be implemented.
- Work must begin to establish a national anti-corruption agency tasked preventing and investigation corruption. The agency must be accountable to the Parliament. The opposition must be involved in the appointment of the agency’s head.
- It is important to change the rules for the appointment of Georgia’s Auditor General and to enhance the opposition’s role in this process. Having the opposition select the Auditor General will be an important step in terms of preventing and combating corruption.
Civil society organizations are prepared to present proposals on all these issues to the government as well as the opposition and to become actively involved in the process of implementation of democratic reforms so that a more balanced and democratic system is established before the next elections. We believe that ending the deadlock through a swift and participatory resolution of these issues serves the interests of our country and of its every citizen. It is necessary for the opposition to participate in the democratic process and reforms at least once the government takes concrete positive steps and paves the way for the process of adoption of important decisions for the building of democracy in the country through complete consolidation of society.
- Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
- Open Society Foundation (OSGF)
- Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
- International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
- Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC)
- Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)
- Society and Banks
- Green Alternative
- Empathy Center
- Center for Research Journalism and Economic Analysis
- Media Development Foundation (MDF)
- Georgia’s Reform Associates (GRASS)
- Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
- Human Rights Center
- Georgia’s Atlantic Council
- Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)
- UN Association Georgia
- Governance Monitoring Center
- Partnership For Human Rights
- Civil Platform 20/20
- Giorgi Mshvenieradze, lawyer
- Lasha Bughadze, writer and playwright
- Rati Amaghlobeli, poet
- Paata Shamugia, poet and president of PEN Georgia
- Ninia Kakabadze, journalist
- Gia Khukhashvili, political analyst
- Khatuna Lagazidze, political analyst
- Lasha Tughushi, Liberal Academy Tbilisi
- Zviad Koridze, journalist
- Nino Danelia, Media Club
- Giorgi Kadagidze, former President of the Georgian National Bank
- Kakhi Qurashvili, doctor of law, professor at the New Vision University
- Kote Chokoraia, associate professor at the Ilia University
- Malkhaz Nakashidze, head of Jean Monnet Chair at the Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University
- Tengiz Tevzadze, assistant professor at the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University
- Giorgi Goradze, professor, head of the Department of Law at the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University
- Givi Luashvili, Invited Lecturer at Tbilisi State University and Georgian National University, Assistant at Tbilisi Open University
- Nino Botchorishvili, Doctor of Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Guram Tavartkiladze Tbilisi Teaching University
- David Jandieri, Doctor of Law, Professor, Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA)
- Zurab Jibghashvili, Doctor of Law, Associate Professor at the International Black Sea University
- Egor Kuroptev – Free Russia Foundation