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20 years of Georgian parliamentarism

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 1
With the background of problems the country currently faces it seems that nobody here in Georgia remembered that exactly 20 years ago on October 28, 1990 as a result of multi-party elections, the Georgian Parliament was established – the first in the Soviet Union.

Since then Georgia has held 6 parliamentary elections; however every one of them was criticised by the losing side, so we can assume that apart from first election conducted 20 years ago, Georgian parliamentarism faces challenges. Nevertheless there is some progress and hopefully the newly adopted constitution will further strengthen the significance of parliament in the country.

It is important to note that the parliamentary elections of 20 years ago were not the first multi-party elections to be held in Georgia. The first of this kind was held in February 1919; however the parliamentary system and multi-party developments were stopped by the brutal annexation of Georgia by Russian Bolsheviks in 1921.

The 1990 elections held on October 28 guaranteed the peaceful transition from a communist regime into a democratic system. However just 14 months after that date dramatic and tragic events developed in the country with military confrontation and the fleeing of Georgia’s first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia from the country. Looking back at the event of 20 years ago, most commentators assess these elections as objective; that they expressed the general mood and hope of the Georgian population which was trying to escape from the soviet reality. Of course the first parliament had many faults and shortcomings; as Georgia’s PM under Gamsakhurdia presidency Tengiz Sigua mentions there were a number of politically uneducated people in parliament – many of them had no idea of what politics was, in general. Political culture and awareness was not of a significant level. Parliamentarians were unable to distinguish foreign policy from domestic and had no idea about market economy.

One feature makes Georgia’s three presidents very similar – all have had obedient parliaments following the dictate and will of the president. Of course these parliaments are rather insignificant as the president has almost limitless powers; this has hampered Georgian parliamentarism from democratic development and change.

The new constitution adopted just a couple of weeks ago makes humble steps towards Georgia becoming a parliamentary republic, but as we know the post of Prime Minister is being reinforced with extra powers. So there is a great deal at stake in the 2012 parliamentary elections – how the votes will be distributed, who will represent each party, and most importantly the party composition of the parliament, will all determine the country’s future democratic development.

So every political party, and in particular the opposition should conduct serious activities to educate and inform the Georgian population – not just in the capital but all over the country.