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Georgian Dream refuses to cease opposition’s plenary powers, leaves room for further negotiations

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, February 10
On February 2nd, the Georgian Dream party refused to cease the plenary powers of the 51 MPs on stroke, leaving room for further discussions. In parallel to this, the ruling team is refusing to agree to snap elections, which the opposition is firmly demanding.

The fact that the Georgian Dream would refuse to take away the opposition’s federal powers didn’t come as surprise to most. From a legal point of view, the government was obliged to satisfy the MPs’ demands regarding ceasing their federal powers but refused to do so since it would be a disadvantage to the ruling team as ceasing the opposition’s plenary powers would end the possibility of future negotiations which the West wouldn’t approve. Besides, the legitimacy of the Georgian Parliament might have been questioned. Parliament is required to have at least 100 MPs but, as of now, the Georgian Dream has only 90.

Even though a few members of the Georgian Dream used to make confident statements regarding their success working without the opposition, they have been actively trying to convince at least some of the opposition parties to enter Parliament. In this regard, they weren’t entirely unsuccessful. Four members of the Alliance of Patriots united under the name European Socialists and entered the Parliament. On February 2nd, Aleko Elisashvili’s party Citizens entered with two members.

EU ambassador Carl Harzell approved the fact that the government refused to cease the opposition’s plenary powers as a way to ‘maintain the negotiation dynamic.’ The US ambassador Kelly Degnan noted that there is a way out of this situation if ‘the parties prioritize the interests of the Georgian people.’

As for the future possibility of negotiations, it is not looking hopeful at the moment as the opposition’s main demand is holding snap elections which the Georgian Dream categorically refuses. The government claims the opposition parties are stuck in a dead-end and are behaving self-destructively. The western friends of Georgia believe the opposition should enter Parliament as it would give them a chance to constructively negotiate with the government regarding election reforms.

The country’s western partners have even mentioned how faking the results of the 2020 elections haven’t really changed the final results. For example, one of the members of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon stated in one of her interviews that even though there were some violations, it couldn’t have significantly altered the final results. It seems like the opposition members cannot convince the western partners that by rigging elections, the Georgian Dream illegally obtained power.

Constructive cooperation between the Georgian Dream and the opposition is unlikely even if they do enter parliament. Davit Zilfimian, a representative of the European Socialists, noted an interesting fact: - In the previous, 9th convocation parliament, none of the opposition legislative initiatives was adopted; none of them were even fully discussed. But it should not be forgotten that at the time when Zilfimian said this, the Georgian Dream had a constitutional majority and its relations with the opposition were in a confrontational mode.

The Georgian Dream claims that by not ceasing the opposition’s plenary powers, it gave the opposition a chance to stop the radical opposition’s bullying them into boycotting. According to the Parliament Chairman, the government expects 20 more opposition party members to enter parliament. This means that the Georgian Dream will try to individually convince the parties. Their main target is going to be new opposition parties that gained their seats thanks to the 1% barrier. The government claims they are being “bullied by the radical opposition parties.” So far, the opposition parties stay unanimous.

In the current circumstances, the opposition’s only chance to force the government into holding snap elections in protest rallies that have been announced to be held in spring. However, quite a few experts doubt the people are going to commit to the opposition’s plans to protest. “We exclude revolution! There is no reason for it, no one is going to support it,” stated the Georgian Dream member Irakli Zarkua.

There seems to be a lot of the same opinion among Western friends. Viola von Cramon, quoted above, says that people "need a constitutional, legislative solution" and not a Rose Revolution. The further development of events, however, depends on the society- whether the accumulated dissatisfaction will turn into mass protests or not.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)