The 2011 political wine season

by | October 27, 2011

The year 2011 proved itself strange. Saakashvili’s government had long been creating many difficulties for its citizens – economic, legal, political. Unhappy people hoped for the opposition. The opposition split into two parts; one focusing on protest rallies, the other on improving the election environment. Neither was able to undermine or even shake Saakashvili's government. People developed a critical attitude toward the opposition and the hope that the government could change, vanished. The Georgian population was not the only one expecting for Georgian government changing. Our partners in Europe and the US seemed to have the same expectations – indications had been made all the time for renewing the government through fair elections. This is understandable; because Saakashvili’s confrontational rhetoric towards Russia had been raising more or less difficulties on the way to the ‘resetting’. The government seemed not to notice request from the West – to set up conditions for reconciliation with Russia (Which the French president openly expressed during his visit in Tbilisi, our capital city). Shortly, stubborn nature of the government had been creating difficulties inside and outside ...


If Georgia wants to have fair elections…

by | October 24, 2011

A number of circumstances determine fairness of elections in Georgia. Among them are the electoral system, transparency of political party financing, the scale of the use of administrative resources for the purpose of party campaigning, accuracy of the voters’ list, the level of civic education, the existence of free media, independent judiciary, active civil society and a strong opposition in the country. It’s hard to say which of them make elections fair, the fact is, that we cannot make considerable improvement of the electoral environment unless the progress refers to all the above listed factors. The electoral system plays the essential role in the process. It is important to note, that ongoing reform of the Electoral Code slightly changes the existing electoral system by increasing the number of MPs,  leaving unsolved the main issue, which is the disproportion between the number of votes received by a political party and the number of mandates in parliament.  For example, under the existing electoral system, a political party which gets thirty percent or more of the votes in both the majoritarian and the proportional system ...


“Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood”

by | October 24, 2011

How Will Saakashvili Chart His Path Into the History Books? The last couple weeks have probably not been fun ones for Georgia’s government, or, more aptly, the political machinery that has long ensured its lock on power. Until now, with comfortably high poll ratings from 2008 to the present, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement didn’t have much to worry about. A largely hapless opposition did little to take a bite out of Saakashvili’s high favorability, to say nothing of the largely state-controlled media that incessantly trumpets a pro-governmental line. But the entrance of a previously low-key billionaire into the political fray changes that dynamic. Especially since Bidzina Ivanishvili has made clear his intention to change the government by democratic means. Since his public declaration of this goal on October 7th, few people in Georgia have been talking about much else. The government’s first reactions to this news have veered to the extreme. First, Saakashvili unilaterally acted to strip Ivanishvili of his Georgian citizenship on October 11th in a move he is technically able to make, but in a broader sense lays ...


Access to public information in Georgia

by | October 22, 2011

“According to the survey, which was carried out in 80 counties of the world, Georgia is the first country after New Zealand in terms of the most effective and transparent functioning of the state office. Nothing to say about Russia, Venezuela and other countries, even France, Germany and Japan are behind us in the list of the survey. This is the result of the reforms that we, all together, holding the last few years. It’s a pride that I have as a result of your activities. Let’s remind where we were 6-7 years ago and where we are now” – said Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, on October 19, 2011 at the meeting with public officials. In fact, if we look at the results of the research, which covered 80 countries, implemented by the trustworthy international non governmental organizations (“Centre for Law and Democracy”, “Access Info Europe”, “International Budget Partnership”), we’ll discover that Georgia is one of the top countries in terms of access to public information and significantly ahead of an institutionally strong democratic states ...


State of the Judiciary in Georgia

by | October 21, 2011

The quality and degree of democracy and freedom in a state, among some other factors, depends on the level of judicial independence. The principle that the judiciary must be independent from both legislative and executive branches of government is built in a constitutional idea of the separation of powers. Furthermore, judicial independence is one of the key components of a basic human right to a fair trial guaranteed by the international human rights instruments, including Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights to which Georgia is a party. Independence gives rise to confidence. As the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has put it “it is of fundamental importance in a democratic society that the courts inspire confidence in the public and above all, as far as criminal proceedings are concerned, in the accused”. Despite some progress over the recent years, the judicial system is one of the least trusted by the public among public institutions. According to the International Republican Institute (IRI) surveys, although over the last two years the percentage of those that have expressed ...


10 years after the peace plan

by | October 20, 2011

Almost 10 years have passed since the UN, in an attempt to help solve the Abkhaz conflict, launched the Document on "Distribution of Competences between Sukhumi and Tbilisi". Basically, this was an effort to have the Abkhaz and the Georgian sides to the conflict sit down at the negotiating table and work out modalities for a peaceful settlement. The Document stipulates that this should be accomplished under premises defined in Article 2: "Abkhazia is a sovereign entity, based on the rule of law, within the State of Georgia". For a short while a window of opportunity opened up which seemed to allow for conflict settlement between Abkhazia and Georgia on the much-disputed basis of Georgia's territorial integrity, a position held at that time by all members of the United Nations. However, in the end the effort failed. When I came to Georgia as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the UNOMIG Mission in November 1999 the key item in my mandate was to broker a solution for the Abkhaz conflict. Personally, I was convinced that such a solution was ...


Myths about the Georgian Economy

by | October 18, 2011

During the reforming of post-revolutionary Georgia’s economy, significant experience has been accumulated in this field, both positive and negative. A plethora of myths about post-revolutionary Georgia have been created. The most accepted myths about Georgia’s economy need to be debunked. Myth 1: “Georgia—A Country of Neo-Liberal Reforms” Georgia received this status thanks to the enumerated successes in reforming its economy. Adoption of a Labor Code which limits employees’ rights and expands those of employers’, should be pointed out along with downsizing of government employees, reduction of the tax burden and simplification of procedures for obtaining licenses and various types of permits necessary for starting up a business. Such reforms were called neo-liberal reforms; it was emphasized that such reforms contribute to making the country more attractive for investment. Thanks to these reforms Doing Business, which is prepared by the International Financial Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank, Georgia moved from 112th place to 37th place in 2006; to 18th place in 2007; and to 12th place in 2010. Of course, the Government of the country advertises this achievement in every way possible. The actual ...


Improving the election environment in Georgia

by | October 15, 2011
Tamar Chugoshvili thumbnail

Georgian society has a history of discussions, disputes, criticism and disagreements around the election environment and election legislation. As an new election approaches, the Parliament of Georgia starts a process of amending the Election Code, and as a rule, a few months prior to the elections significant amendments are made to the legislation. Again the county is in the same process. On September 19, 2011 parliament initiated a new draft of the Election Code, which mostly concentrates on an agreement between the political parties made prior to the initiation but also refers to some other issues, which have never been a subject of political agreement. Both the content and the process of creating the draft law deserve attention. During several months, political discussions around the improvement of the election environment were pending in the different formats. All public interest was concentrated on this process; NGOs were actively involved in both observing it and making recommendations. Despite the high public interest Georgian society discovered, that the new draft code has been written in parliament in a secret manner. Although the topics of the ...


Disenfranchisement of a Georgian Tycoon: Was It Lawful?

by | October 12, 2011

In just a couple of days after Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire known internationally as Boris Ivanishvili, had announced his plans to establish his own political party, to run for the parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2012 and 2013, to win decisively both elections, and to set up a new one-party government, the Georgian authorities claimed that Mr. Ivanishvili forfeited his Georgian citizenship. If the government's claim gets through what it will mean for the richest man in this country and number 185 in the world according to the Forbes rankings is that he will not be eligible either for running for elections or for setting up a political party.  But how could it happen that the owner of a huge property worth of US $5.5 billion lost franchise overnight?  Was the government's decision lawful or arbitrary one? We will try to answer these questions by analyzing relevant provisions of the Georgian Constitution and the law on citizenship, as well as the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights to which Georgia is a party. What we will start ...

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