The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Friday, February 7
Parliament adopts self-governance bill

Parliament passed on Wednesday with 77 votes to 7 its third and final reading bill on local self-governance reform.

The bill, which has been watered down from its initial version, envisages the direct election of mayors in twelve towns, as well as direct election of heads of all the municipalities starting from this year’s local elections.

Debates are now focused on the electoral system, the set of rules under which local elections should be held, tentatively, in June.

The Georgian Dream ruling coalition’s proposal includes the setting of a 40% threshold for electing mayors, meaning that a candidate will require garnering more than others but not less than 40% of votes in order to be declared an outright winner of the race without needing a runoff. Now Tbilisi is the only city where the mayor is directly elected and the threshold is currently set at 30%. Georgian Dream wants to set a 33% threshold for electing heads of the municipality governments.

Non-parliamentary opposition parties, as well as a group of some leading civil society organizations, were insisting on having a 50% threshold.

Planned changes also include the lowering of the threshold from the current 5% to 4% for the party-list, proportional contest for seats in Sakrebulos in provinces, meaning that a party garnering at least 4% in elections will be able to endorse its members in the respective municipality’s Sakrebulo. The threshold is 4% in Tbilisi and it will remain so, according to the Georgian Dream proposal. (Civil.Ge)

The three priorities of the USA in relations with Georgia

Democratic development and consolidation, economic development, and security are the three priorities the USA has in relations with Georgia. First Deputy of the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Bridget Brink, named these priorities during the recent web chat.

According to Brink, the first issue includes different aspects like diplomatic involvement, in which the political and economic departments of the Embassy participate, and public diplomacy, in which the Department of Public Affairs, and also other partners including the United States Agency for Development, take part.

“In my opinion, the main aspect, in which the USA is trying to facilitate democratic consolidation in Georgia is in judicial reform, free and fair elections of the local governance, which will be conducted in spring; freedom of media, meetings, religions and Human Rights," Brink said.

Economic development includes assisting in the creation of new work places in Georgia.

"Thanks to the country's strategic location, it can play transit functions and roles and use its location for creating new work places," Brink added.

While speaking about security as the third priority, the diplomat highlighted the importance of cooperation with other partners.

"I would like to mention the contribution of Georgia to Afghanistan. Georgia is an important partner in issues such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism," Brink noted. (Trend)

School age to be 6 again in Georgia

The school age in Georgia will be 6 instead of 5 again. The recommendation has been issued by the Ministry of Education and Science at a work meeting. The meeting participants informed that the 2014-2015 academic year will be the transition period and children who will be 6 before 31 December 2014 will be eligible for school.

For every next academic year, children who will be 6 before the start of the year will be eligible to enter school.

The meeting participants said that initialing the legislative changes will bring a positive result, as the 5-year-old child’s psychosocial and emotional condition is not ready for school and neither is the school ready for the child, as there is no appropriate infrastructure. (InterPressNews)

Georgian athletes arrive in Sochi

Three members of the Georgian Olympic team have already arrived in Sochi preparing for the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. Nino Tsiklauri, Iason Abramishvili, and Aleksi Beniadze are Georgian skiers. The fourth Georgian athlete, figure skater Elene Gedevanishvili, will join them from Canada in a couple of days.

The delegation of the Georgian Olympic Committee, the vice president and the secretary general had arrived in Sochi a few days earlier to carry out organizational work. (Rustavi 2)

South Ossetia restricts medical trips to Georgia during Olympics

In and around the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, disagreement over a de facto border may place further burdens on ordinary people around the time of the Winter Olympics.

The reason is that the region’s border guards are tightening security ahead of the Sochi Olympics, which opens on Friday, and as a consequence, people who live inside the region but want to cross over to Georgia proper for medical treatment will find it harder to do so.

This was decided when the de facto president Leonid Tibilov met with the Security Council, or KGB, of the region on Tuesday to weigh the concern for tighter security against people’s needs to get treatment in Georgian clinics.

RES, the news agency run by the South Ossetian de facto Foreign Ministry, reported that law enforcement bodies under Tskhinvali control have been instructed to take measures in order to strengthen the protection of the border, which Georgia does not recognize, and conduct monitoring to ensure a prompt response to attempts at violating it.

The South Ossetian KGB was told to redirect patients for treatment to Russia and only allow them to go to Georgia if their life is in danger, when transport to Russia is not possible, or if medical personnel advise so.

Georgia’s Health Minister Davit Sergeenko responded that tens of people per month have come from South Ossetia to Georgia for medical treatment and that they are being financed by the state. He thinks the new restrictions may endanger the lives of patients. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Writers and journalists throughout the world send open letter to Putin

More than 200 prominent writers, publicists, and journalists have sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin a day before the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. The authors of the address call on Putin to nullify all decisions and legislative acts that infringe the freedom of speech in Russia.

They have assessed Russia’s contemporary history as dramatic and said that “they cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts.”

The open letter to Putin has been signed by writers, publicists and journalists from over 30 countries, including Nobel laureates. (Rustavi 2)

MIA solves premeditated murder case

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia has solved the murder case of a young woman. The murder occurred in the village of Ninotsminda in the Kakheti Region. A 26 year-old man inflicted lethal injuries to his girlfriend. The crime was committed in the house of their friend, where the murder suspect and his girlfriend were together. After the murder, the suspect disappeared and his friend had been hiding the body of the dead woman in his house since February 2, 2014. Both suspects have been arrested. They pleaded guilty. (Rustavi 2)