Opinion

Waiting for the next exam

by | November 8, 2011

Neither the government, nor the opposition, nor civil society passed the democracy exam on November 7, 2007.  I’m not writing memoirs about November 7, 2007; nor am I writing a requiem for the young Georgian state. I don’t even want to remember the government's hot-headed actions – how they showed no mercy to citizens or even media equipment. I’m not interested in the political opposition’s chimerical union of those days. I want to discuss with you a democracy test; civil society will be obliged to pass the test sooner or later if it wants to be the founder of a modern state. This test contains several important issues, and no part of social-political life passes it: The government should adopt itself in a pluralistic environment and should live in such an environment. Georgia’s all post-Soviet leader claims that he will create a democracy and it will be out of his mercy. The government can’t create a democracy. At most it can live in a democracy and not suppress social initiatives with force. And force is always a prerogative of the government. On November 7 of 2007 ...

Opinion

Legal review of the case of Bidzina Ivanishvili and Ekaterine Khvedelidze

by | November 5, 2011

The reason of writing this article is an unstoppable speculation of the government representatives regarding the revocation of citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze and the allegations that the revocation was a result of obtaining French citizenship and thereby violating the Georgian constitution by both of them. I have already noted a number of times that the government’s such action amounted to a violation of the Georgian Constitution. Now, basing on the facts, constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship, I will try to demonstrate illegality and unconstitutionality of president’s this decision. So, what the facts reveal to us is as follows:   1. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had been living in Russia in those days, became a citizen of the Russian Federationon a base of being a citizen of the Soviet Union. Due to this fact, as of April 1993, he could no longer have been considered a Georgian citizen, as stipulated by Article 3 of the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship of 1993. 2. In 2004, the citizens of the Russian Federation, Bidzina ...

Opinion

Risk of corruption in Georgia

by | November 4, 2011

“Georgia is number one country fighting corruption”- we frequently hear this message from Georgian Government. Government representatives talk about the achievements in fighting corruption but their opponents underline number of failures in this regards. There are also talks about elite corruption as well and some people think such kind of corruption exists in the upper bureaucracy in Georgia. By defining corruption we should remember that this is not purely bribery but also the abuse of public power, office, or resources by elected government officials for personal gain. Taking into consideration this definition can we really say that the whole anti corruption system of the country is in perfect condition? Can we really be sure that there is no opportunity for abuse of power in the country with weak parliament, judiciary, media and civil society, the institutions which primary mission is to oversee the executive branch? I think in these circumstances we can say that in spite of some achievements the anti-corruption system of Georgia has rooms for improvement. This was proved by the National Integrity System (NIS) assessment, which was conducted ...

Opinion

Open Government Partnership Initiative and Georgia – New Challenges

by | November 1, 2011

On August 30, 2011, Georgia responded to the invitation of the President of the United States Barack Obama and the Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and officially expressed its readiness to actively participate in the Open Government Partnership initiative as “a regional leader” and to address the challenges of open governance in the 21st century http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/georgia . For experts Georgia’s such declaration seems a little bit ambitious, especially when the international society has doubts regarding the level of democracy and transparency of the current government. The Open Government Effort officially begun in New York City, on September 20, 2011 when the leaders of the 46 nations (among them was the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili) agreed about the values of the open government. The Open Government Declaration (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/open-government-declaration) was endorsed by eight states: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The partner countries in advance have agreed on certain issues. While talking about the Open Government Partnership, we have to make a short overview of the preconditions of this global initiative. On his first day in office, US ...

Opinion

Should we expect more unexpected initiatives regarding party financing?

by | October 31, 2011

On 22 October, local non-government organizations met representatives of the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice. At the meeting, the Ministry declared that it intends to present legislative initiatives regarding party financing to the parliament of Georgia which would reflect the recommendations offered by local and international organizations (GRECO, CoU) meant to deal with corruption in the funding of political parties. Together with the recommendations aiming at increasing transparency in party financing, the Ministry proposed regulations limiting and in certain cases restricting political party financing, a measure which contradicts certain provisions of the June 27, 2011 agreement between the ruling party and 7 political parties. It was clear, that besides international and local observers recommendations, the Ministry of Justice considered it appropriate to introduce restriction on legal entities in whether they may contribute to a political party or donate to a party’s election Campaign Fund. It is worth mentioning, that although the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers recommends that member states”take measures aimed at limiting, prohibiting or otherwise strictly regulating donations from legal entities”, in the recommendations directed at ...

Opinion

Drawbacks of a speedy legislative process

by | October 31, 2011

After the “Rose Revolution” a period of numerous reforms started in Georgia. Mostly, reforms required to amend legislation and thus, to hold parliamentary discussions. Unfortunately, the Parliament of Georgia step-by-step lost a role of a place, where professional discussion should take place on every presented amendment. First reason of that is an ownership of constitutional majority only by the ruling party and deficiency of political pluralism. For example, the Parliament of Georgia has 138 members at this moment and 115 from them belong to ruling party. Second reason, on which I’ll focus, is a high speed of legislative process. In practice, the work of the Parliament is very quick. Such a manner of making decisions in most cases excludes civil society involvement, exchange of ideas and the possibility for correction and improvement of initiated bills. In general, the legislative process could be divided into two stages: First, when a bill is elaborated and second, when it is presented before Parliament. Provision of involvement is important on both levels. It is proved as an exception to participate in the elaboration of a ...

Opinion

“We Are Unafraid of Saakashvili’s Attempt at a Pre-Halloween Massacre”

by | October 31, 2011

More than a decade ago, Mikheil Saakashvili got his start in Georgian politics in the Tbilisi city council – before the Rose Revolution and the toppling of Eduard Shevardnadze that brought Saakashvili and his United National Movement (UNM) to power. Despite all the changes Georgia has witnessed since that time, back then the capital city’s local government was a breeding ground for democratic change. It was a place where the opposition could make its voice heard. Sadly, that has changed as we now know first-hand. This past Friday, we were both dismissed from our posts in leadership in the council in a party-line vote by the UNM on puzzling pretexts. It was a troubling sign of how far backwards Georgia has slid when it comes to the very democratic yardstick that once made change possible here. The first reason the UNM-dominated Sakrebulo (city council) said they were stripping us of our posts was our “unclear political activity.” When this suspiciously vague charge only belied their actual motives, the government’s hatchet men changed their story slightly and said we were removed for failing ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

“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 ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

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 ...

Opinion

Improving the election environment in Georgia

by | October 15, 2011

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 ...

Opinion

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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