Twelve opposition MPs who signed the April 19 agreement entered the Parliament and attended their first plenary session today, as they said to begin implementing the EU-brokered deal by paving the way for a presidential pardon of Giorgi Rurua, conditional on the signing parties taking up their mandates.
At a joint press conference in the Parliament, Salome Samadashvili, the sole United National Movement MP who entered the legislature, said “today we will see a release of one political prisoner, Giorgi Rurua, and in the coming days I hope we will see freed Nika Melia.” “This will enable the whole opposition spectrum to sign the agreement and we can then work together to implement the agreement,” she added.
MP Giorgi Vashadze, leader of Strategy Aghmashenebeli, said that “today is a very important day, we took a big step toward resolving the political crisis.” “Difficult days lie ahead,” he highlighted, adding that the opposition MPs will have to ensure the Georgian Dream delivers on its responsibilities as per the deal.
On his part, Lelo for Georgia party leader Badri Japaridze said the opposition aims to work on “full renewal of the election administration and legislation and carry out important reforms on depoliticizing the judiciary.”
The lawmakers who took up their mandates today were Salome Samadashvili of the UNM, Khatuna Samnidze of the Republican Party (part of UNM-led Strength in Unity bloc), Badri Japaridze, Mamuka Khazaradze, Ana Natsvlishvili and Davit Usupashvili of Lelo party, Giorgi Vashadze, Paata Manjgaladze and Teona Akubardia of Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Zurab Japaridze of Girchi – More Freedom, also Armaz Akhvlediani and Shalva Shavgulidze, elected through European Georgia party list.
Grigol Vashadze and Davit Bakradze, former chairs of the United National Movement and European Georgia, respectively, were not in attendance today despite signing the deal. In the meantime, two other signatories, Iago Khvichia and Vakhtang Megrelishvili, from the New Political Center – Girchi, entered the Georgian legislature on April 19.
During the plenary session, MP Samadashvili stated she hopes the issue of “political persecution” will be resolved in the coming days, with the release of Melia and Rurua. Backing the controversial amnesty law, she said it will pave the way to “healing the wounds, so that we will not cling to past drama and pain, so that the society can move forward.”
MP Khazaradze said amid the boycott it took the opposition only six months to reach an agreement on “extremely important” issues of electoral and judiciary reforms, “while the ruling power, Georgian Dream, had eight years for it.” During his speech, Lelo’s leader also highlighted unemployment, decreasing foreign investments and currency depreciation as some key issues facing Georgia. “This country needs an economic revolution,” he stressed.
The April 19 agreement text “acknowledged” that Georgia has “political prisoners,” an unhealthy election system, and a biased judiciary, MP Vashadze remarked. In this context, he dubbed the deal “a new page in Georgian politics.”
Controversy on the amnesty clause continues
The opposition lawmakers arrived at the legislature amid a minor but vocal protest of activists, rallying against the controversial amnesty clause on June 20-21, 2019 anti-occupation unrests. Although meant as a mechanism to release Nika Melia, the activists argue amnesty would lead to impunity over police abuse of power during the dispersal.
“We will not support any amnesty law that may pose even a small risk of possible [police] offenders evading accountability,” Lelo’s Japaridze reaffirmed. Meanwhile, Vashadze said opposition lawmakers will hold a working meeting today to discuss the issue.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili is expected to pardon Giorgi Rurua, imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV shareholder, later today. Meanwhile, the exact mechanism for releasing the detained UNM Chair Nika Melia remains unclear. Previously expected to be set free under the proposed amnesty law, Melia yesterday stated he will accept an EU-offered bail payment if the opposition refrains from supporting the said initiative.