Georgian Dream and opposition parties have again failed to agree on a joint candidate for the new Public Defender. They announced after the December 19 meeting that there is no consensus over the issue. The opposition had suggested the following two candidates, who have CSO support – Ana Abashidze and Giorgi Burjanadze. In turn, Georgian Dream called on the opposition to agree on one of the remaining five candidates: Lela Gaprindashvili, Tinatin Erkvania, Nugzar Kokhreidze, Giorgi Mariamidze, and Ketevan Chachava.
Georgian Dream’s position
After the meeting with the opposition, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, chairperson of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, noted that a candidate’s political impartiality is the bottom line that “is ruled out” in respect of the opposition-backed candidates.
Mdinaradze also said that despite disagreement, he still sees a theoretical chance for opposition lawmakers “to put the state interests ahead” and return to the table of negotiations “with a changed position.” Otherwise, he added, the process risks ending in failure.
Georgian Dream MP Mikheil Sarjveladze, the chairperson of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, stated that the opposition offered them “a non-alternative proposal similar to the ultimatum”. “There is a red line, which cannot be crossed,” he added.
Opposition MP’ remarks
MP Khatia Denakoidze, the chairperson of the United National Movement (UNM) faction, said that the sides failed to reach a consensus despite the opposition’s readiness for it. “There is no agreement. We support Abashidze and Burjanadze. They [the ruling party] ruled out supporting these two candidates and offered five other candidates, which we do not support,” she stressed.
MP Ana Natsvlishvili of the Lelo for Georgia party noted that the rejection of the candidates offered by the opposition shows that the ruling party is not ready for the country to have a public defender who will protect human rights, rather than any political party. “There is a broad consensus [over the two candidates] in the opposition and civil society… and they have all the features necessary for the Public Defender,” she added.
MP Mikheil Daushvili of former PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party said that both Georgian Dream and UNM should compromise, but “both are acting in their narrow political interests rather than state interests.”
“There is time before voting but Georgian Dream has announced that it is not ready for compromise,” MP Khatuna Samnidze of the Republican Party underscored.
MP Aleksandre Rakviashvili of the Girchi party noted that he offered the candidacy of his teammate, Iago Khvichia as a compromise, but he was not supported.
On 19 December, Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili urged President Salome Zurabishvili to convene a special parliamentary session on 22-23 December. Among other things, the Parliament intends to select a new Public Defender and the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC). If the lawmakers fail to reach an agreement, the First Deputy Public Defender, Tamar Gvaramadze will serve as Acting Public Defender till the Spring Session, apparently, until March.
The votes of 90 lawmakers are necessary to elect a new Public Defender. At this moment, neither the ruling party nor the opposition has enough votes. If the Parliament fails to elect the new Public Defender this week, one of the European Commission’s 12 recommendations to obtain the EU candidate status will remain unfulfilled.
Timeline of the Leadup to Selecting the Public Defender:
- 28/10/2022 – New Public Defender Must be Free of Political Influence, urges Council of Religions, Minorities,
- 01/09/2022 – Georgian Dream Will Not Nominate Public Defender Candidates, says GD MP
- 01/09/2022 – U.S. Ambassador Urges Inclusivity in Selecting Public Defender
- 09/09/2022 – Public Defender’s Office Criticizes Draft Bill on Nominating Ombudsman
- 15/09/2022 – Parliament Speaker Sets Rules for Nominating Public Defender
- 27/09/2022 – Civil Society Organizations Present Candidates for New Public Defender
- 27/09/2022 – Parliament Reveals Working Group Meant to Evaluate Public Defender Candidates
- 30/09/2022 – Parliament Releases List of Public Defender Applicants
- 10/10/2022 – Civil Society Weighs in on Public Defender Selection Process
- 11/10/2022 – Public Defender Report Met with Ruling Party Scorn
- 15/10/2022 – Review Committee Gives Top Marks to CSO-nominated Public Defender Candidates