Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Eka Beselia quit her post as the chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, amid apparent internal dispute within the majority group over the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
Speaking at a special press briefing on December 27, Beselia said she had decided to resign earlier, but announced it only after the deputy chair of the Human Rights Committee and her long-time opponent, MP Vano Zardiashvili filed for resignation.
- According to media reports, it was MP Vano Zardiashvili, also of the Georgian Dream, who lobbied the controversial list of Supreme Court appointments, but Beselia as the chair of the lead committee refused to put the list on the committee hearing agenda.
- Had Eka Beselia filed for resignation earlier than Vano Zardiashvili, it would be the latter serving as the acting head of the Legal Affairs Committee. Apparently, Beselia feared Zardiashvili would give green light to the proposed list of candidates.
“With this decision, we have halted a very harmful, unjustified and hasty process of lifetime appointment of Supreme Court judges; I made this decision to enable the public to have a transparent process and be engaged in electing highly-respected judges,” Beselia noted.
“I always believed and I still believe that the Supreme Court should have highly qualified judges with good reputation, who have not served Saakashvili’s oppressive regime,” the lawmaker added.
She also stressed the list has to be recalled by the High Council of Justice rather than be suspended, as announced by Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze on December 26.
Beselia believes the appointment process has to be held with predefined criteria and by a working group with participation of the Legal Affairs Committee and the Parliament, “which will make the process transparent, fair and right.”
The lawmaker also noted, citing “the need to avoid speculations,” that GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili “was in favor of having a fair process that would be conducted in line with procedures and legal requirements, and that everyone would have an opportunity to vote according to their free will.”
Mixed reactions in the majority group
Some ruling party MPs hailed Beselia’s resignation.
“Everyone understands what the outcome of her decision was – the list that they wanted to put to the vote on December 28 was turned down … the announcement that the Parliament postponed the issue was also because of the Legal Affairs Committee since it would fail to pass the Committee,” said MP Levan Gogichaishvili.
MP Gedevan Popkhadze welcomed Beselia’s decision as well, saying this was “a very principled position – a step guided by very high moral standards.” “We should not allow dubious persons elected by dubious means to take over our judiciary,” he noted.
Assessments differed in another group of Georgian Dream lawmakers.
Commenting the decision, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said “it is hard to understand” why Beselia linked her resignation to the appointment of Supreme Court Judges when he had already announced that the issue would not be discussed this year.
“It lacks any logical ground… we had already announced our decision on the procedures and the criteria, so there can be no connection between the resignation and the appointment process,” he noted, dismissing claims of Zardiashvili’s involvement as “speculations.”
“Eka Beselia’s resignation had concrete reasons, but it was not what was said; these reasons are largely our personal, internal party affairs, but we will of course make it public to a certain degree,” the Speaker also said, adding that he would speak of these reasons later.
MP Sopio Kiladze, chair of the Human Rights Committee, echoed Kobakhidze’s points, saying there “is no connection” between Beselia’s resignation and the appointment of judges.
“[Over the last few years] a lot of journalists have approached me with a question on whether Beselia was leaving the post or not; I do not understand why this is linked to the appointment of Supreme Court judges,” Kiladze noted.
“We have not yet made any decision on the candidates and she could have just stated that she did not like the candidates; it is hard to understand, why all of a sudden the issue became the reason for Beselia’s resignation,” she added.
Two non-judge Council members and a group of local rights watchdogs, slammed the decision, saying the process was not transparent.
Opposition parties and some ruling party lawmakers, including Deputy Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili, joined public criticism against the proposed list.
Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze announced on December 26 that the Parliament would not deliberate on the issue in the ongoing session, and would return to it later.