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Opposition Publicizes U.S. Senator Wicker’s Letter to PM Gakharia

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On January 25, opposition’s United National Movement party publicized U.S. Senator Roger Wicker‘s (R-MS) December 19 letter addressed to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

“As a strong ally of the Republic of Georgia, I have been glad to see the accomplishments and strides your country has made over the last sixteen years,” the U.S. Senator said in the beginning of the letter, noting that “since the Rose Revolution, concrete actions to strengthen institutions, including several rounds of judicial reform, and an energized and engaged civil society make your country one of the most democratic republics to emerge from the former Soviet Union.”

“I know you share my enthusiasm for continued democratic successes in Georgia, which is why I am writing to raise concern over recent developments,” U.S. Senator said, highlighting ruling Georgian Dream’s party MPs’ failure to adopt promised of constitutional amendments that envisaged transition to fully proportional electoral system from 2020 instead of 2024. “These electoral changes enjoy broad domestic support, and international democracy advocates considered them important for strengthening Georgia’s multiparty democracy,” Senator Wicker stressed, adding that “regrettably, the amendments’ surprise defeat has already begun to damage public confidence in the fairness of next year’s vote.”

U.S. Senator also spoke of “concern that a recent spate of criminal prosecutions has created the appearance of the targeting of political opponents and independent media outlets.” He stressed that “recent remarks from Georgian Dream Chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili that seem to threaten political opposition with “time in jail” deepen unease about the timing and circumstances of court cases against prominent opposition politicians such as Giga Bokeria and Nika Melia.”

Senator Wicker then referred to Georgian Parliament’s decision to put 14 judges on the top bench for a lifetime tenure. The Senator stressed that “Georgian Dream’s unilateral appointment of 14 judges to life terms on the Supreme Court last week, despite serious questions about some of their legal qualifications, further undercuts public trust in the rule of law.” He further underlined that “this large number of approved judges also appears to surpass the “number of Supreme Court judges that is absolutely necessary to render the work of Supreme Court manageable” – a standard the Venice Commission recommended to address the low level of public trust in the selections process for judicial nominations.”

The U.S. Senator then said that “with elections less than a year away, I encourage your government to move quickly to adopt an electoral system that would enjoy broad public support and ensure a level playing field for all,” noting that “if these measures go unaddressed, the mounting level of distrust in Georgia’s democratic institutions could undercut the legitimacy of the next year’s election and the country’s judiciary writ-large.”

“As a longstanding champion of the strategic partnership between our two countries, I wish to see Georgia continue to thrive as a free and prosperous society, secure within the full extent of its internationally-recognized borders,” Senator Wicker said. He concluded that “in this spirit of cooperation, I hope you will give serious consideration to these concerns and guarantee freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association for all Georgians, consistent with Georgia’s commitments as an OSCE participating state.”

A member of the Republican Party, Roger F. Wicker has represented Mississippi in the United States Senate since December 2007. Wicker is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for the 116th Congress. He is the chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and Vice President of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly. 

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