The messenger logo

Freedom House rating – challenge to Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 16
There has been almost no comment from ministers and the pro-Government media on the report that US-based human rights organization Freedom House has ranked Georgia as a “partly free” country with “non-electoral democracy”. Sadly, this implies that they are unable to disagree with the negative conclusions of this report and present a contrary position.

Usually when an international report shows Georgia succeeding this fact is broadcast from the rooftops by all the ministers and their loyal media time and again, and this is understandable – the population needs positive information to feel more cheerful and optimistic. On the other hand all reports, even critical, should be accepted, studied and analyzed, and a strategy for eliminating failures, not just repeating successes, should be elaborated. Turning a blind eye to reality and taking an ostrich position will bring no good to the country.

Here the crucial question arises: how deep is the will of the country’s leadership to improve things, and to implement the “new wave of democracy” proposed by President Saakashvili and so much needed by Georgia?

The decline in Georgia’s Freedom House ranking is particularly distressing when we remember the high positions the country occupied after the Rose Revolution. But it is not unexpected. Unfortunately many of the observations made by Freedom House in its final country report have already been made by the opposition, Public Defender Sozar Subari and the really independent media, which is mainly the printed press, which, luckily, is still able to operate in this country.

The report highlights the shortcomings of the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections which ironically enough were evaluated as democratic, competitive and so forth by a number of international observers despite protests from the opposition side. The question which needs to be answered is: who was, or is, right? Did the opposition not present enough evidence of intimidation and the abuse of administrative resources? Were these things somehow not noticed by the international observers then? If so, how have they become evident now? What new information has emerged since the elections which has led to this revision of opinion? Most importantly of all, who is to be held accountable for any incorrect report and its consequences?

One is left to regret that everything started so well and could have continued accordingly, had the will been there on several sides. But things can still be improved if the authorities have a genuine desire to do this. Amendments to the constitution and election code must be implemented as soon as possible so that the next elections, whenever they may be, will be carried out in compliance with the demands of the international community. This will not make Georgia free, but it will be a start.

Hopefully, respect for constitution and democracy will eventually become embedded in political culture, so that politicians feel it will be bad for them to ignore these things. If that happens, we will really be getting somewhere.