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Parliament Elects Three Non-Judge Members of HCoJ

Today, in a secret vote, the Parliament elected three non-judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ)- Tristan Benashvili (93 votes), Giorgi Gzobava (91 votes), and Zurab Guraspashvili (93 votes) were elected as non-judge members of the HCoJ. The voting was anonymous.

Zurab Guraspashvili, the Head of the Investigative Division of the General Inspection Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, was nominated by the Civil Development Society and the NGO Community Programming Foundation. Tristan Benashvili, a specialist in the field of law, was nominated by the East European University and the Copyright Association of Georgia. Giorgi Gzobava, a lawyer and member of the Georgian Lawyers’ Association, was nominated by the NGO Young Lawyers and the NGO Free Development Protection Association.

To be elected as a non-judge member of the HCoJ, the candidates needed the support of 90 MPs, which means they needed the opposition votes as well (parliamentary majority has 84 votes in total). It is not known who from the opposition flank supported the candidates. Members of the “Lelo”, “Gakharia” party, “National Movement” party, “Girchi”, “Citizens” and “Reforms Group” announced that they did not participate in the voting. Later during the day the reports surfaced that some of the UNM-Strength in Unity led bloc representatives cast their votes in favor of the candidates.

During the voting, part of the opposition left the plenary session in protest. Two seats remained vacant after the opposition walked out, causing the voting process to be suspended. After the technical break, the remaining candidates could not collect 90 votes.

To fill the vacancy of five non-judge members in the HCoJ, the Parliament announced a competition for the election of candidates in September last year. A total of 32 candidates were submitted, out of which two candidates, Ana Abashidze and Giorgi Burjanadze, withdrew their candidacies.

Yesterday “Georgian Dream” offered the parliamentary opposition to nominate their candidates by the end of the day. However, the opposition MPs considered this deadline unacceptable and an ultimatum, and stated that they have always expressed their readiness for consultations, which Georgian Dream did not reciprocate.

Which Opposition MPs Supported the Candidates for Council Membership?

Later, it was made clear that opposition MPs from the United National Movement faction of the united opposition “Strength in Unity” had come forward to clarify their support for candidates seeking to become non-judge members of the SCoJ. The MPs in question are Nika Machutadze, Nato Chkheidze, Rostom Chkheidze, Bachuki Kardava, and Dilar Khabuliani. While the first four MPs are active members of the United National Movement faction, Dilar Khabuliani has not been a member of the faction for the past two years.

Nika Machutadze, during a briefing held after consultations with the faction, attributed their support for the candidates to the fulfillment of the 12 conditions outlined by the European Commission. He stressed that their decision was not influenced by any affiliation to the “judicial clan”.

Machutadze also acknowledged a “communication problem” within the opposition wing, stating: “We didn’t vote for anybody – nobody said that, no such thing was agreed upon…. In any case, we were not warned or informed.” He admitted the mistake and took political responsibility, emphasizing the lack of communication.

Nato Chkheidze dismissed any notion of a deal, stating: “Obviously, the deal didn’t happen.” She emphasized that their focus, in line with the European Commission’s recommendations, was solely on achieving consensus. Chkheidze also left open the possibility of future consensus with the ruling party concerning the two remaining vacant positions for non-judge members in the Supreme Council of Justice.

“I hope that among the people I voted for there are no Georgian Dream candidates,” said Bachuki Kardava, categorically rejecting the deal with the ruling party. “Not in the deal, I didn’t even have a conversation either before or today. I never intended to cooperate with the Russian authorities and I do not intend to do so,” he stressed.

Following their explanations, Nika Machutadze, Nato Chkheidze, Rostom Chkheidze, and Bachuki Kardava collectively left the UNM faction.

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