The Senaki District Court confirmed to Civil.ge on 18 August it’s ruling that the election of Irakli Kacharava, a member of the For Georgia party, as Chairperson of the Senaki Local Council (Sakrebulo) in February was illegal.
“The Senaki District Court made an illegal decision,” stated Edisher Baghaturia, a For Georgia party member of the Senaki Local Council, after the Court’s decision. “Unfortunately, this decision once again confirmed the fact that we are still far from an independent court in our country,” he added.
According to Boris Soselia, a United National Movement member of the Senaki Local Council, since the Council’s first session on 17 December until 9 February, 9 meetings were scheduled, including 2 by the Georgian Dream, but members of the ruling party did not attend any of them. Accordingly, Soselia believes the cause of the crisis in the Council is “known” to everyone.
Saba Odisharia, a Georgian Dream member of the Senaki Local Council, disagreed and stated that the Court considered their argumentation as the “starting point” according to which “any decision made by the Local Council is valid only in the case when there is a session opened with a quorum.”
He added that the opposition’s decision to hold Council sessions with only 16 members instead of the required 17, is the reason that the court “declared [them] invalid today.”
“The decision of the Court is legal, substantiated, and based on existing facts,” Natia Bokuchava, representative of the Georgian Dream party on this matter, stated while speaking with journalists.
Background on Senaki Local Council
Kacharava was elected on 23 February by the opposition parties the United National Movement and For Georgia against the background of a procedural dispute with the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Prior to the decision, the Local Council had been unable to elect a chairperson since neither the ruling party nor the opposition had the necessary majority in the 33-member body.
Following the 2021 local self-government elections, the ruling party secured 16 seats in the Council, while UNM won 13, and For Georgia – 4. When For Georgia party member Ilia Akhalaia refused his mandate and left the opposition with 16 votes, however, a stalemate was created in the Senaki Local Council with neither side able to elect a chairperson.
The situation changed on 9 February, when opposition MPs decided to recognize the authority of Akhalaia’s deputy, Nikoloz Shamatava to replace Akhalaia. Members of the ruling party and staff of the Local Council stated then that the opposition had violated the law.
Significantly, the civil society organization Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) agreed that the February 9 and 23 sessions of the Senaki Local Council were illegitimate since there was no quorum.
Accordingly, the organization explained that the authority of the Senaki Local Council should have been terminated on June 17 since the law states that a Council which is unable to meet for more than 6 months should be dissolved. In line with that logic, GYLA stated that the CEC should not have called the mid-term elections in just one majority district of Senaki and that full-fledged early elections should have taken place for the entire Local Council.
The CEC decided to call for the election in the Senaki Municipality after one of its UNM members, Vakhtang Tsurtsumia, left the council. His authority was officially terminated early on May 31.
Note: This article was updated on 19 August at 17:25 to reflect comments of the opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream party on the issue.