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Parliament Terminates Mandates of Three Opposition MPs, Former Speaker

Georgian Dream-led Parliament today terminated the MP mandates of Lelo party’s Badri Japaridze, Labor chair Shalva Natelashvili, Droa leader Elene Khoshtaria and former Speaker Kakha Kuchava.

GD lawmakers stripped Japaridze of his mandate as he was found guilty of fraud by the Tbilisi City Court in January in the controversial TBC Bank case. However, Japaridze walked free as the Court noted the statute of limitations on the crime had passed.

Meanwhile, the Parliament revoked the credentials of Natelashvili and Khoshtaria over their absence from parliamentary sittings. The two were the last elected opposition MPs continuing to refuse to enter the Parliament following the boycott over the “rigged” 2020 elections, until Natelashvili announced on February 10 he would take up his mandate. Khoshtaria has not objected to the termination, however.

Kuchava requested to have his powers terminated after resigning as Parliament Speaker in late December 2021.

Following the development, the three opposition lawmakers cannot be replaced, as largely all opposition outfits annulled the rest of their party lists during the parliamentary boycott.

Now the opposition parties in total only hold 55 of the 60 seats they initially received in the elections, as earlier in 2021 United National Movement and Lelo leaders Nika Melia and Mamuka Khazaradze, respectively, also had their mandates terminated. 

Opposition, civil society criticism

The GD lawmakers’ plan to move forward with terminating the mandates of Japaridze and Natelashvili had been widely criticized by the opposition and the civil society. 

Ahead of today’s sitting, United National Movement’s Khatia Dekanoidze had argued the ruling party aimed to bar the opposition outfits from garnering the necessary 50 votes to set up an investigative committee of the treatment of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. 

Besides she called for the opposition outfits’ proportional lists to be reinstated so that “every [terminated] mandate returns to the opposition.” 

Meanwhile, Badri Japaridze argued the GD’s decision was a “continuation of the unfair political persecution” against him.

Also on February 15, Girchi – New Political Center MP Iago Khvichia slammed the GD “for becoming cocky,” and argued that MPs are not entitled to take away their fellow colleagues’ mandates, “granted by the Georgian population.” 

Transparency International Georgia and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), key local watchdogs argued on February 10 that the move may have been aimed at weakening the opposition and consequently at the ineffective exercise of their supervisory function of the Parliament.

Touching upon the GD’s legal reasoning for the terminations, in Japaridze’s case the watchdogs argued that while the Constitution indicates conviction by court judgment as one of the reasons for early termination of powers, the “conviction alone does not constitute the grounds” for the revokement. Also, the CSOs noted that higher instance courts may overturn the ruling following appeals.

They maintained that the Consitution merely mandates the Parliament to deliberate on the expediency of terminating an MP’s authority in this case, and to make the final call considering the interests of the country and the electorate.

With regards to Natelashvili and Khoshtaria, whose powers were terminated over “absences without good reason ” from the parliamentary sittings, the watchdogs recalled that the Parliament had earlier refused to make the move on the same grounds.

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