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PACE endorses Georgia's reforms

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 30
It is clear that the reforms and policies designed to further the modernisation and democratic development of Georgia have continued unabated despite war and setbacks, says a statement by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) released by its members Kastriot Islami and Michael Aastrup on June 28.

“In addition, the aftermath of the war has led to the establishment of a second round of democratic reforms that will help Georgia further consolidate its democracy. However, we would like to stress that democratic reforms should be made on the basis of a wide political consensus and should not be imposed by the dominant political force,” says the report.

The main priority for future action underlined in the report is the election code. "The recent local elections were an important step in the democratisation of Georgia, but should now be followed, without further delay, by a broad agreement on the electoral system and the adoption of a new election code that has the trust of all electoral stakeholders. The recent years have been dominated by debates on the democratic institutions, and other equally important issues have been overshadowed by these discussions. We have tried to widen the scope of our fact-finding visits and intend to continue doing so in our next visit, which we hope to make before the start of the summer recess this year. We would focus, inter alia, on local government reform, human rights and anticorruption policies,” says the report. It also says that improvements in Georgian media freedom and the treatment of national minorities are required.

The Georgian authorities regard the Council’s statement as extremely positive for Georgia. "When the European Council says that democratic reforms are ongoing without obstacles in the country this is a sign of Georgia’s advancement and development. As for the main area of improvement mentioned by the reporters, the election code, this is one of the most important priorities for us and we are working in this direction. Our door is open for all political forces, especially the non-Parliamentary opposition, for consultations. Our main goal is that the election code for the future Parliamentary elections is maximally refined and acceptable for all sides,” MP Nugzar Tsiklauri told The Messenger.

The opposition however are unimpressed by Tsiklauri's statements. "We vividly remember how much our Government “took our attitudes and statements into consideration”. Everything they say about being ready for collaboration is very far from reality and we do not expect that any of our suggestions will be taken into account,” Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party told The Messenger.

Analyst Nika Chitadze told The Messenger that opposition suggestions are sometimes taken into account. "There have been some instances in which the Government has taken opposition demands into consideration, for example by introducing direct election of the Tbilisi Mayor. I think that some changes in the election code are very necessary. First of all more proportional seats relative to first-past-the-post are required, as this will create greater balance in City Hall and Parliament. The Mayors of all major towns should also be elected by direct vote. One of the main issues is that the election process should be more transparent,” Chitadze stated.