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Democracy Index’s evaluation of 2020 Parliament Spring and Extraordinary Sessions

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, October 15
Democracy Index - Georgia, a local watchdog that observes activities of the parliament and determines the quality of democracy in the country since 2019. Their new report reflects the results of the observations of the spring session of the Parliament, including the activities of Parliament during the pandemic - during the emergency session, as well as the quality of the opposition's activities - against the background of the announced boycott.

According to the organization, some progressive steps were taken both in the specific legislative direction and in terms of government control. However, based on the overall picture, the autumn and spring sessions of Parliament were largely indistinguishable from each other. Problems identified during the fall session - including democratic engagement, active participation of civil society and active control of the government - also emerged during this session.

In the spring session of 2020, the Parliament positively revealed its work in several separate areas:

Parliament has adopted a number of important laws, including constitutional amendments, in order to bring it closer to EU standards, as well as to ensure democratic elections.

In terms of summoning members of the government, the spring session was more active: if a similar request was not made in the previous session in the parliament, this time the fact was revealed 6 times: 2 cases by committees and 4 by opposition members of parliament.

Involvement of civil society and relevant experts was ensured during the preparation of several bills.

Several issues that Parliament has decided on the state of emergency and the pandemic: the country declared a state of emergency in a timely and unanimous manner; Held a joint workshop with representatives of the executive branch on the problems related to the pandemic of Georgians living abroad; The Gender Equality Council issued recommendations to the government on the economic empowerment of women in the context of the spread of the coronavirus and the prevention of domestic violence; The opposition was active in interpellating against the Prime Minister in episodic manifestations .

Compared to the previous session, the thematic inquiry mechanism was used more actively by the committees. The situation with regard to the timely publication of activity reports by the committees has significantly improved compared to the previous session.

The following key issues were identified during the spring session and the emergency session: The degree of accountability of individual MPs is low.

As in the previous session, the parliamentary activities of individual MPs are not public and therefore still unknown to the public. They are not documented or reflected in the current website of the Parliament.

In total, only 22 MPs used the MP's question, who, with a few exceptions (Nino Tsilosani, Zaza Gabunia), were mostly members of the opposition.

As in the previous session, in response to the problems identified by the letters of the citizens, the issues on the parliamentary agenda were neither included nor discussed by the members of parliament.

The degree of transparency of the Parliament, the involvement of the public and the consideration of their opinion is low: The discussion of the bills was mostly unreasonably accelerated, which prevented their thorough discussion and proper involvement of the public.

In the preparatory phase of some bills, the problem of stakeholder involvement was identified (Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

As in the previous session, the involvement of civil society, this time too, is significantly low because their fierce protest against issues of essential importance was ignored each time. Facts of selection of persons unacceptable to civil society, or by an unacceptable procedure, have been revealed.

Alternative reports submitted by civil society are not substantially considered by Parliament.

Democracy Index - Georgia says the government control mechanism does not work:

The control of the government by the parliament is very low - the ministers, despite being summoned, very rarely appear in the parliament; and the legislature has not taken any effective action to respond.

The reports of the ministers are not, in fact, considered, or their hearing in different formats in the parliament is not essential. In many cases, MPs' questions / comments relate to irrelevant issues.

The work of the committees is not active: The majority of committees held only a minimum or less than the number of meetings.

Committees are passive in exercising other powers as well - such as - legislative initiatives; Law enforcement control; Study the activities of the administrative body; Establishment of temporary commissions of inquiry and other temporary commissions; Study of case law; Study of compliance of by-laws with laws.

Organisation also highlights that during the state of emergency, the Parliament did not function: In the first stage of the pandemic, it was completely incompetent - it did not take any measures in terms of legislation or oversight.

And the role of the parliamentary opposition is assessed as weak, since the prolonged boycott of the opposition further weakens the role of parliament, thus weakening the possibility of substantive and critical debate.

The opposition's participation in the legislature was thwarted despite efforts - the stage of preparation of the bills submitted by them was delayed each time, due to which they were not discussed.