The Parliament of Georgia has extended the controversial amendments to the Law on Public Health, allowing the government to restrict rights without declaring the state of emergency and parliamentary oversight, until the end of 2020.
The decision endorsed at the Parliament’s special plenary session on July 14 with 79 votes against 1, also covers the period of upcoming October parliamentary elections.
The lawmakers from the United National Movement did not attend the session. The other opposition MPs accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of strengthening its authoritarian rule and attempted capture of power.
Presenting the amendments, MP Dimitri Khundadze, chair of the Healthcare and Social Issues Committee, said the possibility of a “more devastating” second wave of COVID-19 outbreak is the reason behind the extension. He reminded the lawmakers of the WHO estimations, according to which “the second wave of coronavirus is likely to be more devastating.”
The chair of the Healthcare Committee said that the elections due in October might contribute to the spike in COVID-19 cases, which would require the Government to have more effective levers to control the pandemic.
MP Elene Khoshtaria of European Georgia slammed the extension of amendments, noting that the government speculated with the public health issue in a bid to “capture the power.”
Independent MP Eka Beselia also condemned the Parliament’s decision as “unconstitutional,” maintaining that abolition of the parliamentary oversight downgrades the role of the Parliament.
“By initiating this law, you will harm the state and damage the system of checks and balances; you are aiming at strengthening authoritarian rule,” another independent lawmaker, Mariam Jashi addressed her former teammates.
Levan Koberidze, a former Georgian Dream lawmaker, slammed the move as “anticonstitutional,” adding that the ruling party gave the Government “an excessive power”.
The extended amendments were first adopted on May 22 – the day Georgia finished its two months long COVID-related state of emergency – effective through July 15.