Georgia in ‘Nations in Transit’ 2020 Report by Freedom House

Georgia’s democracy score has worsened over the previous year, according to a recent country-by-country report of the U.S.-based rights watchdog Freedom House.

Nations in Transit 2020 report assesses the state of democratic governance in 29 countries in Europe and Eurasia, pertaining to conditions and developments between January and December 2019.

Georgia’s overall democracy score, according to the report, amounts 3.25, which is down from 3.29 recorded in previous year. The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the lowest and 7 the highest level of democratic progress. 

An overall democracy score is an average of ratings for separate categories, involving national governance; electoral process; civil society; independent media; local governance; judicial framework and independence; and corruption.

Democracy score history by countries belonging to the Eurasian region in 2010-2020 Nations in Transit report

Freedom House noted that an indicator assessing judicial framework and independence suffered the biggest number of declines – six countries deteriorating in this regard, including Georgia.

In particular, judicial framework and independence rating fell from 3.00 to 2.75 in Georgia, which was reflecting “contentious appointment process of new Supreme Court judges and the disproportionate use of force by police to break up the June 2019 protests.”

While the judiciary has long been a flashpoint in Georgia’s polarized politics, arbitrary arrests and a number of controversial court cases in 2019 and early 2020 further aggravated an already tense situation,” the report said.

The report referred to “a new entrant into the political field – businessman Mamuka Khazaradzewho “was slapped with money-laundering charges as soon as he announced the founding of a political movement,” and detention of “a more established opposition leader” Gigi Ugulava, who was sentenced to 38 months in prison “in a reheated case involving the alleged misuse of public funds.”

In an ominous sign that such incidents would not be limited to the lower courts, the ruling majority in Parliament granted lifelong tenure to 14 new justices on the country’s Supreme Court following a ‘highly dysfunctional and unprofessional’ appointment process”, the report says.

In Nations in Transit 2020 report, Research Associate Noah Buyon highlighted parliamentary boycotts by opposition parties in Georgia, saying in February 2020, “lawmakers from all of Georgia’s opposition blocs walked out of the legislature after the government backtracked on its promise to transition the country to a fully proportional electoral system.”

Had it been introduced, this system would have decreased the ruling Georgian Dream party’s chances of winning parliamentary elections again this year. The crisis was only defused when, with the help of international mediation, the parties met halfway in March,” Buyon said.

He then added that “the crisis in Georgia was resolved” in March 2020 when European and U.S. diplomats “stepped in to help broker an agreement to transition the country to a mixed electoral system—addressing the structural problem behind the immediate parliamentary crisis.”

Freedom House will publish the full Nations in Transit 2020 narrative report for Georgia as soon as it becomes available.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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