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Opposition Calls on Georgian Dream to ‘Fully Implement’ March 8 Deal

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The Georgian opposition leaders, including newly released Irakli Okruashvili and Gigi Ugulava, gathered at the Labor Party’s office on May 18, welcoming President Salome Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon Okruashvili and Ugulava as an important step aimed to implement the March 8 electoral reform agreement and to normalize the political situation in the country.

Following the meeting the opposition parties released a joint statement, expressing hope that Giorgi Rurua, pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV’s shareholder, another alleged political prisoner, will also be released soon, that will be followed by the Parliament’s adoption of the constitutional amendments envisaged by the March 8 deal.

The opposition’s statement came after Tbilisi City Court held a trial over Giorgi Rurua’s case, where the judge rejected the motion filed by the defense on releasing Rurua on bail and remanded him in custody. 

“By this, the country will proceed towards [more] proportional and fair electoral system,” the opposition said.

In the joint statement, the opposition parties stated that holding the October parliamentary polls “in a calm atmosphere” and changing the government through elections are their key tasks.

The statement also noted the [new] government needs “to ensure the country moves out of the current economic deadlock, take significant steps towards judicial independence” so that “the problem of politicized judiciary and political prisoners” never reemerges in Georgia.

Opposition politicians vowed to act in a coordinated manner in a bid to achieve the stated goals.

MP Tina Bokuchava of the United National Movement said after the meeting that the main issue discussed at the meeting was related to Giorgi Rurua’s imprisonment. She said for the opposition the release of Rurua is a precondition for supporting the constitutional amendments.

Speaking about the opposition’s plans for the upcoming polls, Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili said that a great part of opposition parties will run independently; he added, however, that they will come up with a coordinated strategy regarding single-mandate constituencies in order to ensure the defeat of ruling party candidates.

The Labor Party’s hosts opposition gatherings which include the United National Movement, European Georgia, New Political Center – Girchi, the Republican Party, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, New Georgia party and Victorious Georgia, as well as occasionally involving other groups since November. The ad hoc coalition to discuss the electoral reform and stake out common negotiation position was formed after the Georgian Dream unexpectedly voted down the electoral reform proposal it pledged to implement.

The opposition parties resumed their consultations at the Labor Party’s Office on May 13, following two months long coronavirus break after Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze said on May 11 that the ruling Georgian Dream party had not committed itself to releasing “political prisoners” with March 8 deal.

The opposition then vowed that it would not back the constitutional amendments envisaged by the agreement unless Gigi Ugulava, Irakli Okruashvili and Giorgi Rurua would be released. The President pardoned Ugulava and Okruashvili on May 15.

Constitutional amendment requires 113 votes. There currently are 149 MPs in the Parliament, with Georgian Dream having 93 seats. The UNM has 7 deputies, the European Georgia – 19, the Alliance of Patriots and Social Democrats 7 MPs. “The Independent Deputies” faction is comprised of 6 lawmakers. Additionally, there are 17 unaffiliated lawmakers, many of whom broke off from GD.

Theoretically, the ruling Georgian Dream party (93 MPs) can still amend the constitution without the support from UNM and European Georgia (26 MPs), in case it secures 20 out of 30 remaining votes.

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

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