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Waiting for the sixth parliament

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, March 31

This parliament, independent Georgia’s fifth, closes its final session on April 21. The next is to be elected May 21, in a poll grounded in few certainties. A retrospective look at Georgia’s previous parliaments reveals instructive iterations of the legislative body.

Post-Soviet politics began in Georgia after the 1990 parliamentary elections in which Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s Round Table-Free Georgia swept to victory. That first parliament declared independence, rewrote the constitution, and freed Georgia from the Soviet system.

But by the 1992 parliamentary elections, Gamsakhurdia’s government collapsed and the forces against him entrenched their control. Georgia joined the CIS and adopted a new constitution.

On the basis of this new constitution, the third and fourth parliaments were elected in 1995 and 1999. At first then-president Eduard Shevardnadze was in firm control of who ended up in parliament, and what they did when they got there.

There were only a few different parties in parliament for much of the 1990s, including Shevardnadze’s Citizens Union and Agordzineba (Revival), the political vehicle for Adjara dictator Aslan Abashidze. But by the end of the fourth parliament’s term, Shevardnadze’s team had fractured into several rancorous groups.

The fifth parliament was elected on November 2, 2003. After widespread allegations of vote-rigging, a well-prepared opposition launched the Rose Revolution that same month.

Repeat parliamentary elections were held in April 2004, with Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement dominating. Parliament once again came under the firm control of the authorities, and the Saakashvili administration had free rein to push their reform agenda.

Georgia will elect its sixth parliament on May 21. The date, half a year earlier than once planned, was set after months of political turmoil and crises forced earlier elections. Hopes are dimming for an independently effective legislature, but strong and responsible campaigning from all quarters could lead to a healthily diverse sixth parliament.