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President Giorgi Margvelashvili (third from the left), August 20. Photo: president.gov.ge

CSOs Turn Down President’s Offer for Joint Supreme Court Chair Candidate

Georgian civil society organizations will not present their candidate for new Supreme Court chair, the CSO representatives announced yesterday, following their meeting with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

The invitation to form a CSO-led panel and conduct the selection process through open call was voiced by President Margvelashvili at the final meeting of his two-week long consultations process on August 20.

“I would like the process to be open and inclusive; [therefore,] I would like to invite you to select a candidate that I will then nominate to the Parliament,” Margvelashvili told the CSOs, expressing hope that the sides would agree on specific selection procedures at the meeting.

Speaking after the consultations, Sopho Verdzeuli of the Human Rights Monitoring Center said the CSOs were ready to share their views on specific candidates, but “considering time constraints and other limitations, now is not the time to form a [new] group for selection.”

Eka Gigauri of the Transparency International-Georgia echoed the message, saying the CSOs were willing to give their opinions on concrete presidential candidates, but “political responsibility” for the nomination had to be assumed by the President himself.

Sulkhan Saladze of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association added that time-wise the proposed format was “unrealistic” for achieving “wide consensus” over the candidate.

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, who was also present at the meeting, agreed with the civil society organizations, telling reporters that the decision to nominate the chairmanship candidate was “political,” and therefore, had to be made by the President.

Kakha Kozhoridze, President Margvelashvili’s adviser for legal and human rights affairs, said it was “unfortunate” that the sides failed to join forces.

“There is a wide societal consensus that the judiciary is facing grave problems and considering this consensus, the President invited the CSOs to find the solution together and to conduct the process through wide representation of legal circles,” he noted.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili said the CSO rejection was not surprising to the ruling party. “We quit the process a lot earlier, as the consultations were quite unclear … we see that there are problems in how the process is run, and therefore, we do not have high hopes that we will necessarily have a decent candidate nominated.”

Consultations on selecting the candidacy of the Supreme Court chair was launched on August 6, four days after Nino Gvenetadze’s resignationThe presidential administration held several meetings during the process, including with representatives of rights watchdogs, legal circles and political groups, but no specific candidacies have been named so far.

Under the current Constitution of Georgia, the President has to present the new chairmanship candidate to the Parliament; which will then have to vote on the nomination. Support of at least 76 MPs is need for approval.

In the new Constitution, which is to come to force upon new president’s inauguration later this year, the right to nominate new chairmanship candidate will no longer be in presidential powers, and will instead be mandated to the High Council of Justice, the body overseeing the judiciary.

This effectively means that if lawmakers vote down the President-nominated candidate, the appointment process will be carried out under the new rules.

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