Speaker Talakvadze’s 30-minute address was attended by the ruling Georgian Dream, the Citizens’ and the newly-founded European Socialists parties’ lawmakers, as well as the Cabinet of Ministers, the Adjara Government and the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz Government-in-exile representatives, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan, EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell, among others. Major opposition parties are still boycotting the Parliament, citing election “fraud.”
Opening the address, the Speaker asserted that GD “responsibly fulfilled” the democratic reforms envisaged by the March 8 agreement, through implementing an “essentially proportional” election system, a “new model for party financing,” measures providing “equal access to media,” and “improved election campaign rules” in the run-up to the 2020 parliamentary polls.
According to Speaker Talakvadze, the amendments resulted in eight opposition parties crossing the 1% election threshold and garnering 60 parliamentary mandates for the first time in the latest Georgian history, as well as an expansion of female representation in the legislature.
Decrying the opposition boycott as a “political mistake,” the Parliament Chairperson said that “the majority of our society, as well as of our international partners, wish and expect that the opposition be involved in the work of the Parliament with the representation decided by the voters.”
The Speaker welcomed the decision by the Citizens and the former Alliance of Patriots’ members to enter the Parliament, and expressed concern over the “aggressive and orchestrated negative campaign” launched against them by the “radical opposition.”
Reiterating that the October 31 elections were internationally assessed as “competitive, with fundamental freedoms being respected,” Speaker Talakvadze said the Parliament will work on an electoral reform package based on OSCE/ODIHR observation mission’s findings and recommendations. He also pledged to conduct 2021 local municipal elections “under improved conditions.”
Touching upon Georgia’s foreign policy aspirations, the Chairperson said the new Parliament will focus its efforts towards parliamentary diplomacy. “Our goal is for Georgia to apply for EU membership by 2024,” he added.
The Parliament Speaker also stressed that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the 2008 Russo-Georgian war is “another step towards the restoration of territorial integrity, which Georgia must go through peacefully.”
The Chairperson announced that the Parliament plans to work with the Georgian Government on developing a new security concept, which will strengthen the response mechanisms to hybrid threats and anti-Western propaganda.
Towards the end of his statement, Speaker Talakvadze addressed the Georgian Government’s COVID-19 response, noting that Georgia managed to “retain basic functions of economic activity and a readiness for a speedy recovery.”