Last week, Georgia celebrated its main national holiday - the restoration of independence, which took place on May 26, 1918, 103 years ago. Many events were held on the anniversary of Independence Day this year, with various speeches held by both Georgian and foreign leaders. The main message of this day can be summarized in a few words: remembering the past and looking forward to the future.
Remembering past, thinking about future
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, June 3
The Democratic Republic of Georgia, established 103 years ago, would exist for a total of two and a half years. The country was soon under the Russian rule again- this time occupied by Soviet Russia, which made Georgia part of the Soviet Union. Seven decades later, on April 9, 1991, Georgia declared independence again. 30 years have passed since this.
Recently, a new tendency has emerged: authorities regard the declaration of independence the restoration of independence together with the Day of the Reestablishment of Democratic Republic of Georgia on April 9, 1991.
It has been 30 years since the restoration of independence. For History, this is a short period of time, for ordinary people- almost half of their life. Unfortunately, these years have not been easy on Georgia. The country is still facing the problems of defending its independence and territorial integrity. This is precisely what gives a special significance to the celebration of Independence Day.
The steps taken to build a democratic state in recent years should be acknowledged, but along with these achievements, the country faces many severe issues. Suffice it to say that on the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence, Georgia met with a deep political crisis, in which the country found itself after the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2020. The opposition called the election rigged and refused to enter parliament.
As a result of several weeks of efforts by Council of Europe President Charles Michel, the ruling Georgian Dream and a large part of the boycotted opposition signed a political agreement. This agreement was given an eloquent title- Future Road for Georgia. Neither the government nor the opposition was satisfied with the terms and conditions provided in the document, however.
The government did not want to make a compromise, the opposition wanted more - to hold early parliamentary elections because it does not trust the Georgian Dream and does not believe in constructive cooperation with it. The Charles Michel document is a European perspective on the situation in Georgia and is a kind of democratic audit of the country's political system.
In order to overcome the crisis, Georgia needs an effective parliament, in which the opposition will not only play the role of a democratic decoration, but will also have the opportunity to influence the political process. According to Western friends, it is in the parliament that political parties should cooperate for a better future for Georgia. What needs to be done is a fundamental reform in two areas, without which Georgia will not be able to develop into a democratic state.
This is electoral reform, which aims to build trust in the institution of elections and to exclude the possibility of election fraud as much as possible. The second area is judicial reform - ensuring the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
The steps envisaged by the April 19 agreement will facilitate Georgia's further progress on its path to Europe. Arriving in Tbilisi on May 26, Polish President Andrzej Duda noted that "there is enough room for friends in NATO and the European Union" and that entry is essential for Georgia to continue reforms.
The first steps have already been taken towards the implementation of the April 19 agreement, which has been met with mixed reactions and strengthens the opposition's suspicion that the Georgian Dream intends to implement the Charles Michel document with its own interpretation. The government and the opposition have different views on the amnesty law which appeared in the April 19 document primarily to secure the release of Nika Melia from custody. Melia himself opposed the custody as he doesn’t consider himself guilty.
The government bill on amnesty will be moved from the committees to the plenary session of the parliament and the main debate is still ahead, but the result is clear in advance - the Georgian Dream will present its version of the amnesty by a majority of votes.
The prospects for judicial reform also look difficult. The issue has not yet been debated in parliament, and four judges of the High Council of Justice were elected at an extraordinary conference of judges on May 26. But their opposition, the non-governmental sector and Western friends have been urging them to refrain from making any appointments until the judiciary is reformed. According to the opposition, this proves once again that the politicized court clan, which defends the interests of the government, is not going to give up its positions and that real reform in this area will face serious opposition.
The “ambitious electoral reform” envisaged by Charles Michel's document also began. On May 25, parliament voted in the first reading on a new election code agreed with the opposition in parliament. Improving the Electoral Code is certainly important, but the non-parliamentary opposition is skeptical. In their opinion, a number of methods of election fraud can not be prevented by the Electoral Code. According to Nika Melia, even if there was an ideal election code for the October 31, 2020 elections, “criminals would still have nothing to prevent them from committing crimes.”
The first steps towards the implementation of the April 19 document show that the Georgian Dream and the opposition do not have the same vision of the transformations mentioned in the document, and heated debates are still ahead.