Journalist Rusiko Machaidze, Zaur Khalilov from Civil Integration Fund and Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Movement.  (DF Watch.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–On March 14 , organized a discussion about ethnic minorities’ participation problems in pre-election process.

The non-parliamentary opposition and representatives of NGOs working with minority rights participated in the discussion.

Levan Vepkhvadze, one of the leaders of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), and Zaur Khalilov, executive director of the Civil Integration Fund, discussed problems that prevent ethnic minorities from being involved in political life, especially in the period before an election.

Khalilov underlined several problems. He particularly emphasized ethnic minorities’ lack of knowledge of the state language and added that the Georgian government’s policy is not enough to solve the problem.

CDM leader Levan Vepkhvadze talked about the local government reform that is in progress now. He said the problem is that besides the reform, the issue of local funding is unclear and may be unpopular among locals. Vepkhvadze said this will be much more problematic for ethnic minorities, as they have other expectations.

According to Vepkhvadze, after seven more towns and cities now will be allowed to vote for their highest official – either a mayor or a gamgebeli – the process to select that leader may cause conflict in ethnically diverse villages.

The number of such municipalities has increased from 5 to 12. The seven newly added municipalities were administrative centers before. Giving them a new status means that the surrounding area, which includes villages, will be left without an administrative center. The government has not determined how to select new administrative centers for these areas.

A big part of the discussion was dedicated to this issue.

You can watch a short version of the discussion here with subtitles in English: