Four key local watchdogs – Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), International Society for Fair Election and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia and Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI) – have released a joint report on the implementation of the EU-brokered April 19, 2021 deal between the Georgian Dream and the opposition parties. Noteworthy, the GD quit the agreement in July but pledged to carry out the reforms envisaged in the deal.
Rule of Law, Judiciary Reform
The OSGF, which worked on the rule of law and judiciary chapter, found that almost none of the relevant provisions were fulfilled and that the ruling party makes judiciary and rule of law decisions “behind closed doors.”
It stressed that the Parliament did not adopt an “ambitious judicial reform,” as required by the deal. OSGF said the GD only endorsed changes to common courts law before the deal was signed and without the participation of the opposition and civil society.
The watchdog also stressed Georgia did not carry out an assessment of the third and fourth waves of the judicial reform as laid out in the deal.
The report further highlighted that the provision on suspending Supreme Court appointments before relevant reforms was not implemented. GD lawmakers appointed six Top Court Justices in July.
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Besides, OSGF said the Parliament did not adopt new rules to increase the transparency and ensure the merit-based appointments of first and second instance judges at the High Council of Justice, the body overseeing judiciary. Neither did it reform the HCoJ in line with Venice Commission and ODIHR recommendations, it added.
The document pointed out that the Parliament also has yet to adopt legislation to define rules for the courts to publish their rulings, adding that the relevant bill has been delayed and includes problematic provisions that would “defeat the purpose of transparency and accountability.”
The report also noted that the prosecution remains a “politically motivated, closed” system. OSGF said GD “is not willing to depoliticize the law enforcement system,” after it rejected introducing the 3/5 majority vote for electing Prosecutor General, as brokered in the deal.
Electoral reforms chapter, prepared by ISFED, reported that provisions on holding the next two Parliamentary Polls fully proportionally and with a 2% threshold as well as reducing the number of MPs required to create a parliamentary faction from seven two four were partially fulfilled. The necessary constitutional changes so far only cleared the first hurdle.
As for the changes to the electoral code, the watchdog said Georgian MPs fulfilled obligations on increasing proportional share in local councils, decreasing election threshold in local vote, introducing 2/3 majority vote for the chair and professional members of the Central Election Commission, as well as defining the criteria for recounting the ballots.
Among the electoral code changes, ISFED said Georgia partially implemented the provision to allow all 9 parties that crossed the 1% threshold in the 2020 general vote to name a member to the CEC.
It pointed out that changes allowed European Socialists — comprised of former Alliance of Patriots members — to name a member to the CEC instead of the AoP, despite the former party not having participated in the parliamentary elections.
ISFED also stressed that provisions to increase representation of professional members of lower-level election administrations were partially fulfilled.
The watchdog further said that the obligation to revise the controversial bill stripping boycotting opposition parties of funding was also partially fulfilled. The legislation still envisages parties to lose state funding if half or more of its MPs terminate their mandates and if more than half of its MPs do not attend more than half of plenaries.
Power-sharing in the Parliament
TI Georgia, which reported on power-sharing provisions of the deal, found that none of the EU-brokered provisions on power-sharing in the Parliament were implemented.
Specifically, the watchdog said steps were not taken to appoint opposition MPs as the chairs of five parliamentary committees, including two of the following – Procedural Issues and Rules; Legal Issues; Human Rights; Budget and Finance; Foreign Relations.
Besides, the report said that an opposition lawmaker was not assigned one chairpersonship position in either of Georgia’s delegations to Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE PA.
Also, it added that Jean Monnet Dialogue with the European Parliament was not launched and that an “inclusive formula” for allocating parliamentary positions in the future was not introduced.
Addressing Perceptions of Politicized Justice
The Georgian Democracy Initiative reported that the EU-brokered provisions on addressing perceptions of politicized justice were partially implemented.
The watchdog noted that both of the persons regarded by the opposition as “political prisoners” — United National Movement chair Nika Melia and shareholder of government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV Giorgi Rurua — were released.
Meanwhile, GDI said that although the Parliament eventually adopted the amnesty law on the events of June 20-21, 2019, GD and the opposition were unable to reach an agreement on the legislation.
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