The ruling Georgian Dream party lawmakers are divided over the appointment process of Supreme Court judges, with MP Eka Beselia and several other MPs accusing the party’s parliamentary leadership, including Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, of lobbying the controversial list of judicial nominees.
The disagreement follows the resignation of Eka Beselia from the post of the chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, the lead committee for judicial appointments. It also comes after the disputed election of MP Gedevan Popkhadze as the first deputy chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, and his subsequent dismissal by the Georgian Dream faction.
Beselia opposes the nominations list strongly, arguing some nominees “served [Mikheil] Saakashvili’s oppressive regime.” She insists the proposed list has to be recalled rather than be suspended, as announced by Speaker Kobakhidze. She also wants broader discussion on the issue, as well as fundamental reform of selection and nomination procedures.
“If the judges are not appointed based on the principles of independence, professionalism and trust, and if the Parliament and our political team endorse those who served the oppressive regime of Saakashvili and [Zurab] Adeishvili (Justice Minister from 2008 to 2012), I will no longer see myself together with these people,” she said on January 7.
“The future of our country depends on how the Supreme Court, as the highest court, will be filled and who the lifetime appointees will be – judges who were part of Saakashvili’s regime or judges who were not affiliated with his grave legacy,” the MP added on January 8.
Positions differ in another group of lawmakers, which, among others, includes Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and Georgian Dream faction chair Mamuka Mdinaradze, as well as MPs Anri Okhanashvili, Sopio Kiladze, Rati Ionatamishvili and Kakha Kuchava.
In his press remarks on January 8, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze stressed the Parliament is not entitled to withdraw the nominations list as the right to submit and recall the candidates rests solely with the High Council of Justice, the body overseeing the judiciary.
The lawmaker said if the High Council decides not to change the candidates, the Parliament will have to process the nominations list in its current form, and evaluate the merits of individual candidates. He added, however, that the ruling party will also deliberate on whether to set specific criteria for selecting and nominating the Supreme Court judges.
Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze commented on the matter as well, warning against violations of GD’s internal rules of procedure. “Criticism of teammates is a violation of rules… there is a hypothetical risk that we might have to expel someone, but of course such individual cases do not mean that there is a rift in the Georgian Dream,” he said.
The Parliament Speaker reiterated his earlier remarks that MP Beselia’s resignation from the post of the Legal Affairs Committee chair is not related to the appointment of Supreme Court judges, and that her replacement was decided in August, 2018.