GD Chairman: PACE urges opposition to enter parliament
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has discussed election report prepared by Tini Kox today and reiterated that the elections were competitive and free in Georgia,” Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, stated on Monday.
According to him, PACE approved the observation mission’s report, including recommendations.
“This recommendation reflects our will. In particular, to check all violations revealed in this election. That’s why we’ve proposed the opposition to set up a parliamentary commission,” GD Chairman said.
Irakli Kobakhidze stresses that the CoE calls on the opposition to engage in parliamentary work. “We hope the opposition will take these statements into account,” he said.
He also echoed the decision on re-electing him as PACE Vice-President. “I am happy to be approved as PACE Vice-President for the second term in a row,” Kobakhidze added.
Implementing ECHR judgments: Progress despite COVID in 2020, but further efforts are needed
Strasbourg, 31.03.2021 – States across Europe are continuing to make progress on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
However, further efforts are needed to tackle systemic issues highlighted by the ECHR, including ill-treatment or deaths caused by the security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as inter-state cases and a growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.
“Today’s report shows that our member states take their obligation to implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights very seriously, even in difficult circumstances,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.
“It is also very positive that NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions are becoming more and more involved in the process, making it more effective and transparent.
“Nevertheless, this is no time for complacency. Many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough. Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request – it is a binding requirement.”
The report shows that a total of 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020 as a result of steps taken by the member states concerned. Of those 983 cases, 187 (19%) were “leading” cases – notably highlighting new structural or systemic problems – and 796 (81%) were repetitive.
At the end of 2020, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved, of which 1,258 (24%) were leading cases and 3,975 (76%) were repetitive. 634 leading cases had been pending for over 5 years, but the number of such cases has been falling since 2016.
The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020. However, the Committee of Ministers was awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of which had been awaiting confirmation for more than six months.
Finally, the report underlines that the Committee of Ministers received a record 176 formal communications from non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in 2020, concerning 28 different states. The Committee also received its first five communications from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.
My expectations from Christian Danielsson's visit to Georgia and from our Western friends and Partners, in general
“In principle, the processes developed exactly as during the previous negotiations. The negotiators failed to propose a text that would be acceptable to the Georgian Dream,” Zurab Japaridze, leader of Girchi -More Freedom party, said after a joint meeting between the opposition and government officials.
According to him, the Georgian Dream was not ready to agree to any points in the document and sign it. My expectations from Christian Danielsson's visit to Georgia and from our Western friends and Partners, in general.
The country is in a profound crisis. The economy is practically ruined. The investments have stopped, nobody wants to risk bringing their money in here. On top of that there is COVID-19 pandemic and the worsened security environment in the region. Against this background the Government manages to retain power through taking new multi-billion loans, through spreading propaganda based on lies and through utilizing the security agencies.
The political crisis, which instead of receding, has intensified following the 2020 Parliamentary elections, has acquired catastrophic magnitude as a result of the arrest of the chairman of the largest opposition party, the announcement of the de-facto chair of the ruling party that he was leaving politics and the resignation of the de-facto Prime Minister.
In a situation like this, for any country, which wishes to be perceived as a democracy, there is only one way to resolve crisis – new elections. But Georgian Dream claims that this is a “red line” for them.
In reality, it is not the new elections that are a “red line”. The red line for the Georgian Dream, is the loss of power. They are afraid to lose power as a result of fair elections, not just elections per se. Let’s not kid ourselves- this is the real “red line”.
Against this backdrop and taking into consideration the multitude of serious challenges mentioned above, our Western friends have decided to help us and to assume the role of the mediator between the de-facto authorities and the opposition. For this, they deserve our gratitude, especially the EU and US Ambassadors.
Several rounds of negotiations have ended without any result and now we are all expecting the second visit of the EU Council President’s special envoy, Mr. Daniellson with the hope that we can finally reach some agreement and resolve the political crisis.
However, at this moment it is not at all clear what can possibly happen during the second visit of Mr. Danielsson that will drastically change the dynamics of the negotiations and bring us to the agreement.
That is why, I have decided to publicly state what are my personal expectations as regards this visit and where I see the solution.
In my opinion, the five clauses outlined by the EU Council President indicate very precisely what exactly are the dire shortcomings that Georgia has. Without solving them, any discourse about addressing other issues and external threats, is quite simply, meaningless:
1) Political persecution must end, as using judicial system against the political opponents is incompatible with the Western/European values. Therefore, political prisoners must be set free
2) The courts must be independent and must not be ruled by a clan loyal to any one person or any one party, because such courts are incompatible with Western/European values
3) Power must be shared and the opposition has to be equipped with real tools to have a political impact, because power concentrated entirely in the hands of any one person or any one party is incompatible with the Western/European values
4) The elections should be free and fair, because the situation whereby not a single party or political leader voted for by the half of the voters, recognizes the results of the elections and trusts the electoral administration or courts, is incompatible with the Western/European values. Elections must be conducted in a fully proportional system, with a natural barrier threshold, as this is the only remedy against the existing polarization, as well as against the decades long malicious practice of one-party and one-man rule.
5) When in a deep crisis such as we have today, with all the threats that Georgia faces, the Government should have the sense of responsibility to set the day for new elections. Only authoritarian rulers do otherwise and this is not compatible with Western/European values.
I expect that these will be the messages of Mr. Danielsson during his second visit.
Moreover, I expect that similar messages will be voiced by all our Western friends.
This is the only solution in the current circumstances, because this is the truth.
The attempts to modify or “soften” this truth with messages such as “both sides are responsible for this situation” or “both sides have to find it in them to overcome the differences and come to a compromise” are doomed.
Because this is not the truth.
After the eight-year rule by Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream, I do not understand where is my responsibility when it comes to:
- political persecution of the opposition;
- politicized judiciary managed by a clan;
- election system and administration that are at service of the ruling party;
- concentration of all power in the hands of one man who is not occupying any official position;
- extreme polarization of the political spectrum, the main architect of which is Georgian Dream, which has spent eight years on hate propaganda and has chosen the “middle ground elimination”, as its main political competition strategy at each election.
I also do not understand what can possibly be a compromise, as far as the clauses left by the EU Council President are concerned, except for technical details.
- Leave some control over judiciary to Ivanishvili?
- Allow for somewhat unfair elections, so that GD prolongs its rule?
- Leave all power levers for Ivanishvili and agree to some symbolic changes?
- Disregard all the above and come to terms with the Ivanishvili’s rule for the next four years?
That’s impossible. More than that, to agree to that would be irresponsible, would be equivalent to ignoring the problems and further prolonging the crisis.
Our Western partners have to realize this and therefore change the approach towards the negotiation process.
EU’s Georgia Mediation Fails Again
In the early minutes of March 31, after mediating an eight-hour meeting between the ruling Georgian Dream and the opposition parties, Christian Danielsson, EU Council President Charles Michel’s Personal Envoy to mediate Georgia’s crisis, said he was “sad to report that none of the political parties could agree to this solution in whole.”
Danielsson publicized the document he proposed the parties for agreement. While the Georgian Dream and the opposition leaders traded accusations afterward over the failure to strike the deal, it seems the parties largely agreed on the electoral reform, judicial reform, and parliamentary power-sharing points. They failed, however, as expected, to reach a consensus over the release of alleged political prisoners and the issue of future elections.
The opposition’s key demand for snap elections – fiercely rejected by the GD government – was not reflected in the public document. It referred, however, to the prospect for the release and dropping charges against Nika Melia, top opposition leader, by initiating amnesty for June 2019 unrest participants. This passage did not include the release of Giorgi Rurua, pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV shareholder, whom the opposition also regards as a political prisoner.
Danielsson is now expected to update President Michel about the development in the coming days, while it remains unclear whether the EU mediation efforts will continue.
“This is a solution that requires political courage and responsibility,” stated the EU diplomat. Below are the main takeaways of the text Danielsson put forward, that the parties rejected to fully endorse.
Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice Commission
Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.
With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.
Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.
The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.
Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.
Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.
The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.
In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.
The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question.
The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.
Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.
The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.
COE MEDIA RELEASE
Georgia monitors react to Tbilisi raid and arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia
The PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have expressed their concern at developments in Tbilisi.
“While no-one should be above the law, the police raid on the UNM Headquarters and the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia have unnecessarily escalated tensions between the opposition and the ruling majority and deepened the political crisis in the country,” they said.
“Georgia’s democratic development needs restraint, dialogue and compromise, not escalation and confrontation,” said the two co-rapporteurs.
They called on all political forces to refrain from any actions that could further escalate tension, and to return to the negotiating table in order to find a political and mutually acceptable solution to resolve the ongoing crisis.