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Freedom House: Georgia on its Way to Becoming Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regime

According to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2024 report, Georgia’s score remains unchanged – 3.04 from the last year, however, the same report notes that “the autocratizing hybrids like Hungary, Serbia, and to a lesser extent Georgia are on their way to becoming Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes based on the report methodology.”

The the US-based rights watchdog explains that in the context of such regimes, the key institutions, including the media and the judiciary, have been politicized more than expected under the classical definitions of hybrid regimes and “are now effectively captured by ruling parties and abused for partisan or personal gain.”

The report notes that in autocratizing hybrids, unlike in the Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes, there “is a minimal but real margin of respect for freedom of assembly, and the fact that the state rarely uses physical violence to crush dissent.” Georgia belongs to a subcategory of the hybrid regimes where the governments can be forced to make certain concessions, demonstrated by the example of withdrawing the Foreign Agents Law last year.

The report argues that “in the context of the ongoing geopolitical reordering the hybrid regimes are caught between the transatlantic community of democracies and the camp of entrenched autocrats, and face an inevitable choice between the two without having the third alternative.”

The Nations in Transit report assesses the status of democratic governance in 29 post-communist nations across Europe and Eurasia, highlighting significant developments in the past year. Ratings range from 1 to 7, with 1 denoting the lowest and 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress. An overall democracy score is an average of ratings for separate indicators, involving national democratic governance; electoral process; civil society; independent media; local democratic governance; judicial framework and independence; and corruption.

National Governance

In the detailed narrative report on Georgia, the National Governance rating remained the same as in 2022, with 4 points. The Freedom House notes that the country “is not fully prepared” for the “crucial” upcoming Parliamentary elections in October 2024, as the country carried out no significant electoral reforms in 2023. “National Democratic governance in Georgia is shaped by deep political polarization, with a government focused on preserving power and a fractured opposition.”

According to the report, throughout 2023, Georgian politics witnessed strained relations between the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party and its Western allies, notably the Party of European Socialists (PES) after the Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference hosted by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sparked criticism from the PES, leading to the GD relinquishing its observer status.

Meanwhile, tensions between President Salome Zurabishvili and the GD deepened, culminating in an impeachment attempt prompted by conflicts over the President’s unauthorized visits to Europe. Another crisis erupted between the government and the National Bank over US-sanctioned former Prosecutor-General of Georgia Otar Partskhaladze, when after the ruling party criticism, the NBG reversed its initial stance and ruled that a guilty verdict from a Georgian court was necessary to impose international sanctions on a citizen of Georgia.

Speaking of the opposition, the report argues that in 2023, “most opposition parties pushed their narrow political agendas and therefore failed to persuade the politically disenfranchised electorate to vote for them.”

“Political polarization has been a major problem in recent years and persisted in 2023. The GD’s decision not to lower the 5 percent threshold for representation in Parliament ahead of the 2024 elections could deepen polarization and benefit both the GD and the UNM—the two parties most often accused of deepening political divisions in Georgia,” the watchdog argues.

Electoral Process

In 2023, Georgia’s electoral process score remained the same – 3 points. According to Freedom House’s report, the country’s electoral system largely adhered to international standards in 2023. Nevertheless, the political landscape was characterized by the ruling party’s dominance, an uneven playing field favoring the government, and escalating party-driven polarization.

The report notes that “Parliament passed significant changes to the electoral code that shifted the power to appoint the chairperson and seven members of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) from the president to the speaker of Parliament” and also “reduced the number of parliamentary votes needed to elect the CEC head from 100 to 76 (representing half of all votes)”. The report note that these amendments run contrary to the so-called Charles Michel document and that it “faced criticism from the European Commission, which said it was not “in line with the Commission’s opinion” and in conflict with “numerous recommendations.”

The report says that ensuring fair and free parliamentary elections in 2024 is crucial for upholding Georgia’s democratic trajectory and advancing its EU accession aspirations. Freedom House underscores the importance of conducting “a free, fair and competitive electoral process, especially in 2024,” while emphasizing the necessity of addressing OSCE/ODIHR recommendations from December 15, 2022, and finalizing electoral reforms. These recommendations, which include delineating electoral constituencies, adjusting media campaign regulations, and implementing measures to deter voter intimidation, are named essential for enhancing transparency and democratic quality of the election, and for promoting a more competitive electoral environment.

Civil Society

Georgia’s civil society rating too remained at 4 points. According to Freedom House’s assessment, the legal framework, characterized by light registration and reporting requirements, a special tax regime, and robust freedom of association, facilitate robust civic activity. Nonetheless, civil society organizations (CSOs) encountered challenges in sustaining financial viability and often lacked grassroots support, contributing to low public trust towards them.

Speaking of the civil society, the watchdog recalls that the Foreign Agents bill last year caused outrage both inside and outside of Georgia, sparking large-scale protests after which the bill was withdrawn. “Georgia’s international partners warned that the bill’s passage would undermine democracy, jeopardize Georgia’s EU accession, and damage Tbilisi’s ties with the West.”

The report states that although in October, 2023 the Georgian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF)signed a memorandum of cooperation with Parliament, “CSOs still had little policy impact in 2023, as the government largely disregarded their views on legislation and appointments.” Moreover, the report notes that “the government’s inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric against CSOs worsened in 2023 and undermined them, as evidenced by the “foreign agents” bill controversy.”

Among other issues mentioned in the report there are the adoption of the so-called “tent law” giving law enforcement extensive authority to break up protests or apprehend demonstrators; the case of Lazare Grigoriadis and his sentencing, and reports of violence against students, civil society activists, opposition politicians, and intellectuals critical of the government. It’s noted that “the ruling party allegedly encouraged some of this violence against its critics.”

Independent Media

The media freedom score remained at 3.25 points, highlighting that “the media landscape remains vibrant and multifaceted but is highly polarized and shaped by political polarization, partisanship, and party-led radicalization.” According to the report, press freedom continued to be an important issue in 2023, taking into account Georgia’s EU accession process.

Among other issues, the report also highlights that between January and November 2023, Transparency International Georgia “recorded approximately 45 incidents of “violence, harassment, and intimidation attempts” against journalists, as well as 14 criminal cases against perpetrators.” In this context, the Freedom House notes that journalists faced harassment from both the government and the opposition. “These dynamics reveal a complex media environment where the solid legal framework and media pluralism are undermined by political polarization that feeds hostility towards journalists.”

The report recalls that Parliament adopted a new law that allows the government to block content that it considers obscene, hateful, vulgar, or supportive of terrorism and notes that opponents of the law have expressed concerns that it could limit free speech, threaten the independence critical media outlet, and lead to censorship. Freedom House document refers to the TI-Georgia’s Annual TV Advertising Market Report for 2022, which “highlighted how progovernment television networks received twice as much advertising revenue as critical TV media outlets in 2022.”

Local Democratic Governance

In local democratic governance, Georgia again scored 2.75 points. Throughout 2023, political polarization and corruption pervading the national scene plagued the local government as well, with the opposition figures and activists encountering assaults, beatings, intimidation, and with frequent boycotts of city council meetings nationwide. The Freedom House also notes, that transparency and accountability issues persisted in municipal spending, with local NGOs highlighting corruption allegations in procurement processes across Georgia.

Judicial Framework and Independence

When its comes to judiciary, Georgia’s score remained at 2.5 points in 2025. “Corruption and political and corporate interference in the judiciary threatened Georgian democracy in 2023. Throughout the year, numerous scandals, a lack of comprehensive reforms, and US sanctions against some key judges marred the judicial system.”

Among other issues, the report stresses that the judicial reform is key for Georgia’s EU membership, mentioning the need of tackling challenges such as the “judicial clan” and the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) reforming.

Speaking of the election of the non-judge members of the HCoJ, the report highlights that “non-governmental actors formally nominated the candidates, but the selection and voting process was highly politicized due to the judicial corporatism in the HCoJ that remains a major unresolved issue.”

The report notes that “after the U.S. sanctioned Georgian judges, opposition parties attempted to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate the corruption allegations against the sanctioned judges.” However, the ruling party boycotted the initiative and the commission was scrapped when legislators failed to achieve a quorum in the plenary session of Parliament


Georgia’s corruption rating remained at 3.5 points. “Georgia has largely eliminated low-level corruption, high-level corruption remains rampant, with prominent officials enjoying almost total impunity,” the report says, citing TI Georgia which “had registered 151 “alleged cases of high-level corruption” over the last few years, involving at least “162 high-level public officials.” According to TI Georgia, more than 30 of these cases occurred in 2023.”


In addition, the Freedom House says the frequent conflicts between President Salome Zurabishvili and Parliament of Georgia led by the ruling Georgian Dream “threatened the system of checks and balances that help maintain Georgia’s democracy.”

Regarding the Russian occupation, according to the report, “security challenges and deteriorating conditions in the Russian-occupied zones exacerbated political tensions in 2023.” The ongoing illegal “borderization” along the Russia-occupied Georgian regions, accompanied by persisting occasional killings, abductions, and other incidents, was also discussed in the report.

As for Georgia’s approach to Russia, the Freedom House notes that “Georgia continued to take an ambiguous stance on the Russia-Ukraine war in 2023. While Georgian authorities apparently complied with international financial sanctions against Russia, they refused to impose bilateral sanctions on Russia.”

Among other issues, the report also touches upon the health of the imprisoned former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The report cites Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, based on whom it says that “Saakashvili’s health has declined in prison and authorities have failed to provide the former president with adequate healthcare.”

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