The messenger logo

Political aspects of the lustration law

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, September 9
The adoption of a lustration law has been speculated about almost since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But as yet one has not been passed. Some analysts think that the latest draft of such a law might be successful, even though it is the initiative of opposition member Gia Tortladze, as some believe he has official support for his proposal. But others suggest it is too late to adopt a lustration law. In most post-Soviet countries a similar law was adopted right after independence to address the proliferation of former Communist leaders or people attached to the KGB in state bodies. Time makes it unlikely that there are many such people in state positions in Georgia.

Passing such a law would have been unthinkable in the Shevardnadze years because this former Communist leader of Soviet Georgia relied on former Communist party members and promoted people he had known during the Communist era. He knew and trusted these people and because of their past he could control them. But in 2003 the Rose Revolution brought to power members of a younger generation. So the question arises: why is this issue so important right now? The opposition suspects that this is a plot to discredit it, masterminded by the current leadership. They say that this is why a member of the Parliamentary opposition has proposed it. In this view, Gia Tortladze will do all the Government’s work for it and then the law will be used exclusively to attack the real opposition.

The draft law outlines a list of positions which no one currently involved in politics or public service should ever have occupied. If it is proven that an individual has filled one of these positions in the past he will be discredited and forced to leave politics. Analyst Ramaz Klimiashvili says that this clause of the law targets Shalva Natelashvili, Davit Gamkrelidze, Manana Nachkhebia and certain others who were once Young Communist League (Komsomol) leaders. If the law is adopted with this clause it would not leave much choice to those who were once either Communist Party or Young Communist League members: they would have to leave politics. Of course, the opposition will fiercely protest. They will also remind the public of the pasts of some of the current Government members, including President Saakashvili himself who was also once a Komsomol member.

Almost 20 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet system. This kind of law would be little use against former Communists now as most of the Soviet era leaders have either given up politics, or got old or died. However the current administration could use it to start a witch hunt with, labelling nasty opposition members as either former or current Russian agents. “But what do we do about the Western agents?” asks Hamlet Chipashvili, the former representative of Aslan Abashidze’s Adjara administration in Tbilisi. He adds that while drawing their list of ex-Commies officials will include many opposition members but members of the current administration will be omitted.

If the lustration law is adopted confrontation between the administration and the opposition will become even more fierce. As very often fights without any sort of rules take place via the Georgian media and there is little control of the media’s professional ethics people will soon start labelling each other as former Communists without any proof or even evidence being offered. The public will not care whether the allegations are true or not, believing what they want to believe without digging deeper into each individual case.

An agent is an agent, no matter whether they work for Russian or some other country. However there are no clear criteria for deciding what constitutes an agent rather than someone with particular sympathies. Therefore all a lustration law will achieve at this stage is to bring McCarthyism to Georgia, almost fifty years after it was buried in the most anti-Communist nation on earth.