Abkhazia: activists set up tents, demand parliament pass anti-corruption law
Around 30 activists have pitched tents near the parliament building in Sukhum and intend to stay there until deputies ratify article 20 of the UN Convention against Corruption.
More than ten police officers are on duty nearby, but do not approach the tents and do not require them to be removed.
An initiative group of citizens led by former presidential candidate Astamur Kakalia has been trying since 2018 to force the Abkhaz parliament to ratify article 20 of the UN Convention on Combating Corruption and pass a law that would criminalize officials for illegal enrichment.
In the morning, protesters held a rally at which they again announced their demands.
The bill in question is called “On the declaration of income, expenses, property and property obligations by public servants and deputies.”
In addition, activists are demanding that the concept of “illicit enrichment” be introduced into the criminal code.
Initially, the initiative group developed its own version of the anti-corruption law, posted it on social media and invited everyone to propose their amendments. By the summer of 2018, the revised document was submitted to parliament.
Since then, amid periodic protests and rallies, MPs have passed the bill in two readings, but two more hearings remain, and since the parliament does not plan them, the activists decided to speed up the process and get guarantees for the adoption of the law and amendments before the presidential election, which is scheduled for March 22.
Astamur Kakalia says that activists held many meetings with MPs, discussed issues with them, but the final approval of this bill is constantly being postponed.
“We want to know what is the insurmountable difficulty of adopting a simple, standard law on the declaration of income of officials? We have waited too long, and too many times they have promised us [to pass the bill], but this law has not been adopted. At the same time, everyone is in favor of it”, says Kakalia.
On January 21, an initiative group organized a public discussion. The main topic of discussion was the need to accept the proposals of activists before the presidential election. At that meeting, none of the MPs came.
However, at the same time, the deputies did not refuse a personal dialogue with the participants in the protest rally and almost all came to the tents to talk with the activists.
Among parliamentarians, deputy Astamur Logua is considered the main supporter of the protesters.
According to him, they planned to submit the bill at the next meeting, on the sixth of February, and there is no reason to hold the protest.
However, the protesters have their own view of the situation.
“We need to adopt effective laws that serve the people, future generations, national interests, and each of us needs to leave personal interests at home,” said one of the activists for the adoption of the anti-corruption law, Dzhansuh Adleiba.
“Your position is clear. But I will understand your protest only if the law is rejected,” said Givi Kvarchia, a member of parliament.
Protesters urge the whole society of Abkhazia to support the protest. On social media there has been a great response and almost unanimous support. However, few people joined the activists in tents.