Discussing the new deal proposed on April 18 by European Council President Charles Michel to solve Georgia’s political crisis, Georgian opposition leaders largely welcomed the inclusion of mechanisms for the timely release of alleged political prisoners – UNM leader Nika Melia and opposition TV shareholder Giorgi Rurua – in the document.
As for another hotly-contested issue of the snap parliamentary elections, which shall be scheduled in 2022 if the Georgian Dream gets less than 43% of votes in October 2021 local elections, the opposition leaders have expressed mixed reactions.
Following the EU and U.S. Ambassadors-mediated meeting to discuss the amended proposal, skipped by the ruling Georgian Dream party leaders, Salome Samadashvili of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, welcomed “more clear” passages over the alleged political prisoners in President Michel’s document.
She said, however, that “we [find] certain issues problematic in the proposed document,” alluding to the indirect roadmap for the snap elections. Samadashvili further noted that the UNM will discuss the document within the party before making the final decision over signature.
Similarly, other opposition parties still have to arrive at the conclusion to sign the deal, as does the Georgian Dream which signed the previous version of the proposal. The GD said earlier they sign the original March 31 compromise offer by President Michel’s envoy to mediate the crisis Christian Danielsson, while also calling on the opposition “to put the interests of the country above everything else and to sign the document.”
UNM’s Akaki Minashvili was more straightforward in expressing his dissatisfaction, noting that tying the fate of snap elections to the local polls is “not the right way.” “It will be problematic and less likely” for the UNM to sign the EU-mediated document over the latter clause, he said.
Giga Bokeria of the European Georgia party hailed “good progress” in the new compromise document in regards to the issue of alleged political prisoners, but like Minashvili, found it unacceptable to link the conduct of snap elections to the Georgian Dream’s performance in the local elections. Bokeria said they will discuss the latter both within the party and with the international partners.
Noting that the content of the new document “should be acceptable for more or less every side,” Giorgi Vashadze of Strategy Aghmashenebeli said he will discuss the text with the party’s political council.
“I don’t believe this document will get Georgia out of the crisis,” said Zurab Japaridze, right-libertarian Girchi – More Freedom party leader. He welcomed, however, the prospect of amnesty for Melia and Rurua which appeared in the new proposed deal.
Khatuna Samnidze of the Republican Party said she sees President Michel’s document “positively,” and expressed her readiness to sign the deal. “But it will take the readiness from the Government’s part to make a deal,” she added.
Right-libertarian Girchi party leader Vakhtang Megrelishvili, who previously said his party leaders intend to visit the parliament on April 19 to “get acquainted with the people and launch backstage works,” told the media that he is hopeful the opposition parties will be guided by “common sense” in measuring the consequences of their decisions.
Aleko Elisashvili of Citizens, who quit the opposition’s boycott and took up the mandates along with Levan Ioseliani, welcomed the document stating that the deal contains “very serious” clauses on judicial and election reforms, as well as effective mechanisms on the release of the alleged political prisoners. Elisashvili also suggested that the GD will not collect more than 43% of the votes in local elections, hinting at the potential snap elections in 2022.
EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell on his part told the media that President Michel views the amended proposal “as balanced and realistic.” Ambassador Hartzell further noted that the decision “to end the current political crisis” is up to the parties that consult about signing the document.
European Council President Charles Michel proposed a new amended deal between the ruling party and the opposition as the latter refused to sign the original document due to the absence of the “clear clauses” about the alleged political prisoners and snap parliamentary elections.