Georgian Parliament Opens Amid Opposition Boycott

The 10th convocation of the Georgian Parliament, elected in October 31 elections for a term of four years, is holding its inaugural session on December 11 in Tbilisi. Only the 88 MPs elected from the Georgian Dream (the remaining 2 out of 90-MP representation of GD are in self-isolation due to Covid-19) are present in 150-MP chamber, as the opposition boycotts the legislature, claiming election fraud.

Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairperson Tamar Zhvania presented the election results to the newly elected Parliament and to its temporary vote counting and temporary mandate commissions. The parliament approved the mandates of MPs and is expected to appoint the officials to the chairmanship and the commissions.

In parallel to the Parliament’s session, the United National Movement, European Georgia, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Lelo, and Labor Party leaders have gathered in a nearby park and signed a memorandum, through which their elected MPs pledge to terminate their parliamentary mandates. Girchi, the Citizens party, and Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots, which passed the 1% election threshold, did not formally renounce their mandates, holding out for the successful outcome of the foreign-mediated talks with the ruling party. But they are also boycotting the parliament, for now.

UNM’s Nika Melia, elected MP who is withdrawing his mandate said signing the document “marks a historic day, when everyone rejected to make a deal” with the “power-grabbing” ruling party.

Pro-opposition activists picketed the entrances to the Parliament building. They consider it shameful that the Parliament has convened with only a single party present for the first time in Georgia’s 30-year history of post-Soviet independence.

“I don’t see it as a tragedy, frankly speaking, if we [GD] are alone in the Parliament,” Tea Tsulukiani, elected senior ruling party MP told the Public Broadcaster Tuesday.

GD’s parliamentary majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze took a different stance today however, noting that “although the Parliament will work properly under any circumstances, I keep hoping that they [opposition] will think rationally, in accordance with national interests, and we will see opposition MPs in Parliament.” 

“We are tired”: President’s address

“We are tired,” President Salome Zurabishvili highlighted in the opening statement of the first parliamentary session, calling for “depolarization, solidarity and unity” of the country.

“The time of ideologies has come to an end: communism has ended, ultraliberalism did not work either, ultra-patriotism is the opposite of real national patriotism. Fanaticism dissolves society and destroys an individual,” the President asserted.

“This sort of [post-]colonial complex that impedes the full perception of independence. We think less of ourselves, of the words and ideas that emanate from our midst,” President Zurabishvili remarked, adding that “it deprives us of self-confidence, without which it is impossible to have faith in ourselves and to govern the country effectively. It is our weakness that forces us to constantly argue our Europeanness when Europeanness is the essence of our history and our culture.”

Mediation on hold

The opposition claims the election results were rigged. They are demanding snap elections, the resignation of CEC chair Tamar Zhvania and the release of alleged political prisoners, the demands the ruling party rejected.

During month-long post-election talks facilitated by the EU and U.S. Ambassadors, GD and opposition parties managed to bring closer their positions on a few issues, including further electoral reforms ahead of planned 2021 local and 2024 parliamentary elections – something that opposition reckoned was unsatisfying to enter the new Parliament. The discussions are currently on hold.

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