Georgian Dream Denies Having Pledged to Release “Political Prisoners”

Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze has repudiated allegations  over ruling party’s non-compliance with the March 8 agreement on electoral reform, asserting that Georgian Dream had not – in any form – committed itself to releasing “political prisoners” – contrary to opposition politicians’s “impudent speculations.”

The opposition claims that the issue of releasing “political prisoners” had been one of the preconditions for the agreement on the electoral system reform. They issued a joint statement, calling on the Georgian President and all state institutions to help resolve the dispute promptly “by using [all] legitimate tools at their disposal.”

Speaking at a news briefing on May 11, Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze said that “the radical opposition” is taking advantage of the fact that the negotiations on the agreement were not public and that “diplomatic protocol obliges ambassadors to exercise utmost restraint with regard to disclosing the content of closed-door meetings.”

“Our public and our foreign friends are fed up with these groundless speculations,” said Talakvadze, and appealed to the ambassadors, who facilitated the talks, to shed light on the content of the agreement in order “to bring all speculations to a halt.”

“Specifically, we ask them to affirm that we have not assumed the obligation to give illegal instructions to the President, the court, and the Prosecutor’s Office – in order to secure release of Gigi Ugulava, Irakli Okruashvili, and Giorgi Rurua under the agreement. We also appeal to them to provide an objective assessment of the role of each signatory in putting into practice the agreement,” the Parliament Speaker stated.

He thanked the ambassadors for their “invaluable and decisive role in successfully concluding the negotiations.”

“For the first time, it will enable to conduct elections in Georgia in accordance with a system based on a complete consensus of political parties. It is alarming that this aftermath – obtained owing to ambassadors’ efforts – may be put at risk by radical opposition’s irresponsible behavior” the Parliament Speaker noted.

Talakvadze said that the opposition is concerned about their “rock-bottom level of public support. He insisted opposition politicians were “afraid of the upcoming elections” and still pondered over “a radical scenario, seeking foreign support.”

However, claimed the Speaker, “this radical scenario and any form of foreign support for it are doomed to fail once again.”

“This is evidenced by the appropriate response of the Georgian public to the letter by MEP Andrius Kubilius who, without any hesitation, demanded that the ruling party meddle in the affairs of the court,” Talakvadze said.

The Parliament Speaker noted that although the ruling party was “thoroughly” fulfilling all obligations envisaged by the March 8 agreement, the opposition had doubled down on “improper” politicization of justice since the day the agreement was signed.”

In this respect, he mentioned opposition’s demand to release Gigi Ugulava, Irakli Okruashvili and Giorgi Rurua, stressing that the ruling party made it “clear” that their release could “in no way” become a topic of political horsetrading.

Talakvadze said that the opposition is threatening the public with the scuttling adoption of the constitutional amendment. “We would like to stress that the responsibility for the failure of the constitutional amendment will lie solely with the radical opposition,” he added.

Following several rounds of formal and informal negotiations, the opposition and the ruling party cut a deal about the electoral system reform on March 8. The agreement envisages introducing a parliamentary composition based on 120 proportional mandates and 30 majoritarian seats (change from 77/73 system), a fair composition of 30 single-mandate constituency districts, a 1% threshold, and a cap requiring that no single party that wins less than 40% of the votes can form a majority in the next parliament.

Welcoming the agreement, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) noted on March 10: “Additionally, I applaud the promise made in the joint statement on Sunday to address “actions that could be perceived as inappropriate politicization of Georgia’s judicial and electoral processes,” and expect to see the release of politically-motivated detainees imminently”.

More on March 8 Agreement and electoral reform:

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


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