IS THE ELECTION LAW THROUGH? International observers and CSOs have joined their voices in welcoming the first-round vote in the Parliament that moved Georgia closer to elections based on March 8 compromise. That means 120 MPs will be elected through party lists, and 30 – through majoritarian contest. That was just the first-round vote, and two more rounds are planned. What are the stakes?
RURUA’s RELEASE Opposition claims (and most international mediators kind of agree…) one part of the March 8 compromise was to release three opposition figures – Gigi Ugulava, Irakli Okruashvili, and Giorgi Rurua. The first two were pardoned by President Zurabishvili, Rurua is not yet convicted, but in pre-trial detention. Rurua, in charge of opposition-minded Mtavari TV, is arrested – opposition claims – on trumped-up gun charges. Failing to release him was a deal-breaker for the opposition. In principle, GD could have passed the electoral bill on their own, but our sources tell us, the opposition got a wind that they were considering an about face. The European Georgia faction then decided to vote for changes, cutting the road for retreat but said they won’t vote in the second round if Rurua is not out. UNM did not vote.
GEARING UP It is true, the Georgian Dream seemed to drag its feet on elections. Irakli Kobakhidze alluded to a potential delay in the vote (slated for late October) due to a hypothetical second wave of the pandemic. But once the electoral bull cleared its first hurdle in the parliament, the ruling party kicked things into a higher gear – parliament chair said the pandemic is unlikely to strike again and now the plan is to hold a second-round vote today (23 June). Why?
ISOLATING European Georgia: European Georgia put their reputation among opposition colleagues at risk by tactically voting for the bill despite earlier arrangements not to. They pledged not to vote in the second round unless Rurua is released. GD might hope, that by scheduling the early second vote, they’d put opposition unity in question: the Europeans would either have to vote in the second round (and flip-flop on their word – again) or not vote – giving GD grounds to argue that the opposition did not want compromise.
GAMES ASIDE though, the first-round vote is what mattered: failure to pass the first hurdle meant that the constitutional bill needed to be re-initiated in a complex process. If the bill fails the second hurdle, it can just be re-voted. Overall, the electoral bill now seems on track.
INTO THE BREACH Outspoken Anna Dolidze yielded her place at the High Council of Justice (HJoC), a court oversight body, to head for politics. An advocate for more independent courts, she did so after some unseemly haggle – the Law is clear HCoJ member “may not be the member of the political union and/or participate in political activity” (Law on Courts, Chapter 7, Article 13).
That’s full lid for today!