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Freedom House says Georgia’s democracy score improved

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, April 13
The Freedom House organisation has released a report entitled 'Nations in Transit 2016', in which it says that the democracy score of Georgia improved from 4.64 to 4.6.

In the part about Georgia, Freedom House overviews the recent developments in the country and its current situation.

According to the report, democratic institutions and practices in Georgia saw signs of development, stagnation, and even regression in 2015.

“Positively, the year saw increased evidence of political pluralism and a noticeable slowing in new prosecutions against former officials from the previously ruling United National Movement (UNM), while the structural independence and functionality of the Georgian judicial system were largely sustained in 2015,” the report reads.

However, according to Freedom House, there were also signs of stagnation and regression in media freedom.

“While the Georgian media landscape remains diverse and largely pluralistic, the investigation and prosecution of the leading opposition media outlet, Rustavi2, points to political pressure by elements of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition,” writes the author, Michael Cecire.

The author underlines that the Judicial Framework and Independence rating improved from 5.00 to 4.75 due to evidence of sustained structural improvements and increased judicial independence compared to previous years.

As a result, Georgia’s Democracy Score improved from 4.64 to 4.61.

According to the report, the most important event of 2016 in Georgia will be parliamentary elections scheduled in October.

“Due to falling support for GD and largely stagnant backing for UNM, the main beneficiaries of the elections could be non-parliamentary opposition parties, if current trends continue,” the report reads, and notes that elections 2016 will be highly competitive in Georgia.

Moreover, Cecire says that recent polls indicate that some segments of the Georgian public increasingly embrace pro-Russian and anti-Western policies, though they continue to represent the minority and their support significantly lags behind that of Euro-Atlantic integration.

“Pro-Russian political parties in Georgia are widely seen as being funded by Moscow and part of Russia’s efforts to extend its influence over Georgia and destabilize the country,” Cecire writes.

Former Prime Minister of Georgia and the founder of the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, was also included in the report. He is believed to be playing a prominent role in Georgian political life.

According to the report, the civil society sector in Georgia is robust and active. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a prominent role in policy research, advocacy, and opinion leadership.

“Overall, NGOs in Georgia are able to work without harassment or intimidation. The Georgian legal code offers sufficient protections for NGOs to operate freely, and the autonomy of organizations is customarily observed,” reads the report.

The author also claims that nepotism is an increasing problem in Georgian society. His report relies on the data of the NGO-Transparency International Georgia and says that senior officials using their positions for personal purposes doubled in 2015—from 12 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2015.

However, the report says that the same 2015 TI poll also found that bribery continued to be a rarity, and more than 99 percent reported that neither they nor their families had been asked to pay a bribe for public services.

Freedom House annually publishes its reports, which cover the 29 countries of the former socialist bloc and reviews the current political situation, as well as the development of democracy and civil rights situation in these countries, including Georgia.