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Political agreement between ruling majority and opposition offers a window of opportunity for Georgia

“The political agreement between ruling majority and opposition on the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia, which we strongly welcomed in last week’s statement, offers a window of opportunity for Georgia’s democratic consolidation,” said the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlăţean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), following Mr Corlăţean’s visit to Tbilisi on 11 and 12 March 2020.

The co-rapporteurs welcomed the constructive spirit in which the constitutional amendments to implement the agreement on the election system – including with regard to the sensitive issue of the election districts – were agreed upon between all stakeholders. They therefore expressed their hope that the new spirit of engagement and co-operation would continue to exist during the organisation and conduct of the elections.

“As we stated last week, this agreement can help to reduce the chronic tensions and polarisation in the political environment, which has been affecting the democratic process in Georgia. We call upon all political players to maintain this momentum and to demonstrate the same political will and maturity to find agreement on the other issues that divide them,” added the co-rapporteurs.

In that context they noted that the implementation of the pledge to refrain from politicising the electoral process and judiciary, despite clearly existing political will, was more complex and sensitive. They therefore called on all partners to refrain from any action that could complicate or raise doubts about their commitment to the implementation of this pledge.

In addition the co-rapporteurs called on all stakeholders to ensure the proper representation of female candidates both in the proportional and majoritarian components of the forthcoming elections.

With regard to reform of the judiciary, the rapporteurs welcomed the adoption of the fourth wave of judicial reforms and expressed their hope that they would be implemented promptly and coherently. They encouraged the authorities to continue looking for ways to further strengthen the independence of the judiciary, including with regard to the functioning of the High Council of Justice. They reiterated that a genuinely independent and impartial judiciary will depend not only on the prompt and consistent implementation of reforms but also on a commensurate change in attitude and behaviour by all stakeholders concerned.

The rapporteurs welcomed the decision of the ruling majority not to appoint any additional judges to the Supreme Court during the current parliamentary session. They urged the authorities only to appoint new Supreme Court judges after the current legislation for the appointment process has been amended to address the deficiencies noted in the recent appointment cycle. They also urged them to follow all remaining Venice Commission recommendations, in particular with regard to abolishing secret voting, and intoducing reasoned decisions and uniform and transparent selection criteria, in order to ensure a genuinely merit-based appointment process.

While welcoming progress made, the co-rapporteurs encouraged the authorities to further reduce the use of pre-trial detention as its use, which is still very frequent, runs counter to European standards and has contributed to allegations of its instrumentalisation for politically motivated purposes. They welcomed the commitment of the authorities and the ruling majority to drafting a new law on administrative offences, as the current one dates from the Soviet era, runs counter to European standards and Georgian constitutional provisions, and is vulnerable to abuse.

“Again, there is a window of opportunity for the creation of a new élan in Georgia’s political environment, which can be beneficial for the implementation of these reforms and which can give a new impetus to Georgia’s democratic consolidation,” the co-rapporteurs said. “As long-time friends of Georgia, we stand ready to assist all stakeholders with this process in any way we can.”