The mediation of the President of the Council of Europe Charles Michel ended successfully, Georgian Dream and part of the opposition signed a document with the hopeful title “The future path for Georgia.” However, the main part is to meet the requirements written in the document in the rather extensive paragraphs.
Agreement between opposition bloc and government reached, problems remain
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, April 28
Strange as it may seem, if the boycott was the basis for the unity of the opposition, the consent document proposed by Charles Michel caused a great disagreement in the opposition.
United National Movement, European Georgia, and the Labour Party refused to sign. In their view, the proposed document is imperfect and allows a number of points to be interpreted differently, which would allow the government not to actually implement the ambitious electoral reform, rule of law, or judicial reform mentioned in the document.
Politicians remaining in the boycott regime and their pro-government activists have accused opposition members of parliament of betraying the principles, saying that if the opposition had remained united, it would have been possible to get a much better document from the mediator.
According to the opposition, who signed the existing document, the tense international context, the importance of the support of the European Union and the United States for Georgia should be taken into account. According to them, the document proposed by Charles Michel was better than the document previously presented by Danielson, and at the same time it was a request from European friends, the mediator's last attempt to reach an agreement, the rejection of which would jeopardize Georgia's Euro-Atlantic prospects.
The main contentious issues between the government and the opposition are still the release of political prisoners Giorgi Rurua and Nika Melia and the issue of holding early parliamentary elections. Georgian Dream used to call these points the ‘red line’ which the opposition shouldn’t have crossed and refused to discuss it. Now, as a result of negotiations, President Salome Zurabishvili pardoned Giorgi Rurua. As for Nika Melia, the issue of his release is still unclear. Melia refuses to pay bail, even if it is paid by an EU-led non-governmental organization. Opposition groups called for an end to the amnesty law, which would bring Melia freedom.
The law will be initiated next Tuesday, but has already caused a great deal of perturbation. In the amnesty law, the Georgian Dream envisages the police officers guilty of ‘Gavrilov's night’ and the termination of the investigation against the people who ordered the raid, whose identities have not been determined yet.
The victims of the police do not agree with this and Nika Melia himself is against getting such an amnesty. The authorities, if they wish, could find other ways to release Melia. For example, Deputy Public Defender Giorgi Burjanadze focused on Article 70 of the Criminal Code, which allows a person to be released from criminal liability if it is found that imposing legal liability is inappropriate due to a change in circumstances.
However, we will probably witness the payment of bail again and, most importantly, the debate on the amnesty law, which will also involve the opposition in parliament. If they support the amnesty of the guilty police officers, they will be severely criticized.
The largest opposition force, the National Movement, will agree to enter parliament only if Melia is released from prison as per the government’s decision. The main demand of the opposition was to call early parliamentary elections or to hold a plebiscite on early parliamentary elections. Georgian Dream used to categorically ruled out the possibility of holding snap elections.
The signed document holds the following reservation: early parliamentary elections will be called in case the Georgian Dream receives less than 43% of the true proportional votes in the October 2021 local elections.
This idea used to cause disagreement as the government in the self-government elections would have a great resource to win votes in the elections. The third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili welcomed the signed document and said that the defeat of the Georgian Dream in the local elections, which, in his opinion, is very much possible. Saakashvili stated he would arrive in Georgia ahead of the local elections, prompting ironic comments from his opponents.
Saakashvili often talks about arriving in Georgia, but Georgian Dream threatens him with imprisonment.
Government officials have already stated they have won by signing the document of Charles Michel with the opposition, the opposition has broken up, the majority of the boycotting bloc has entered the parliament, and, as for the upcoming local elections, Georgian Dream expects ‘a convincing victory.’
As for the near future challenges, the issue of Nika Melia needs resolving. After the boycott of most of the opposition parties in the parliament, the current legislature of Georgia adopted a multi-party model.