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Prospects for democracy in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 16
According to the international standards, Georgia is so-called "hybrid country"; a state that is more authoritarian than democratic. International observers, experts, and government officials keep a close eye on Georgia's democratic moves, and evaluate them as cautious but generally attentive. However, every compliment comes with a caveat.

The most recent evaluation of Georgia's political system came from United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of association and assembly, Maina Kiai. Having observed Georgia’s progress since the 2003 Rose Revolution, he noted the country's achievements in combating crime and corruption, especially within law enforcement. However, he also expressed concern about recent developments in election law, as well as activities carried out by government supporters that may limit fundamental freedoms. Restrictions placed upon NGOs have been of particular concern to foreign observers, as well as a lack of diversity in media ownership.

Commentators both in- and outside of Georgia warn that the situation is not as smooth as the administration presents it. While the government has succeeded in modernizing much of Georgia's bureaucracy, its track record on democratic reforms is not so stellar. The recent controversy over amendments to campaign finance law has ignited a debate about the government's commitment to civil rights and an independent civil society. Critics note that new laws are vaguely drafted, creating room for subjective and undemocratic interpretations.

Majority MP David Darchiashvili responded to Kiai's assessment, suggesting that the UN evaluation will change once more research is done, and once Kiai's team has spoken with government officials. According to Darchiashvili, Georgia is a democratic country with some critical issues – not an authoritarian one.