Could Georgia lose international support? Another critical letter from Washington
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has received another critical letter from politicians in Washington D.C. on January 30.
The previous letter came on January 22, and it said that the Georgian government had abandoned promised democratic reforms, was persecuting political opponents, and that the investment climate in the country has deteriorated.
This time, the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, James Risch, and member of this committee, Jeanne Shaheen, criticised the Georgian authorities.
This new letter is even more critical than the previous one. It specifically states:
“…we are increasingly concerned by recent events that indicate a weakening of Georgian democracy and governance. Two of the most pressing matters are Parliament’s failure to uphold its commitment to electoral reform and the government’s violent suppression of peaceful protests.
“In addition, the recent political targeting of opposition leaders through both formal and informal methods is further evidence of Georgia’s democratic backsliding.
“Further, we fear that a lack of progress on reforms and increased tensions within Georgia will only open the door for increased Russian meddling in the country and throughout the region.”
The main failures of the authorities: the struggle with political opponents and unequal election conditions
As in previous letters, the senators emphasize the progress Georgia has made since the collapse of the Soviet Union:
“In the 29 years since Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union, we have watched democracy take root, the economy grow, civil society flourish, and governance improve dramatically”, they write.
“We both observed the 2012 parliamentary elections and were impressed with how Georgia had embraced these core tenets of democracy. For decades now, the United States has been eager to support Georgia as it developed,” the letter said.
During these elections, power changed in Georgia. The nine-year rule of the United National Movement – the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili – ended, the Georgian Dream party has come to power. For the first time in Georgia, power was changed through elections.
However, according to senators, all these successes are now being called into question.
Senators identified two major failures:
•Parliament has not fulfilled its obligation to conduct electoral reform,
•Government suppressed peaceful protests that began in Georgia after electoral reform failed in parliament
The letter says that attacks on opposition leaders are carried out by “people associated with the ruling party.”
The senators here, with a high degree of probability, had in mind an incident at the Tbilisi airport, where athletes attacked the leaders of the opposition party European Georgia Gigi Ugulava and Goka Gabashvili.
Senators also consider it suspicious that the investigation into cases against opposition leaders closed years ago has resumed. Senators suspect that the authorities are using the court to silence their opponents.
“Many will have to serve their sentences” – statement by the leader of the ruling party Bidzina Ivanishvili
The new letter once again expressed concern about the statement by the shadow leader of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, on television on November 28, when he predicted that his opponents would go to jail.
“This is a tragic situation. I do not like that they bang their heads against the wall, they have no chance. They do not sleep nights, they deceive each other that ‘not today – tomorrow they will come.’ They have no chance. At this time they are going all-in. They are spending a huge amount of energy. Some go for two days [to prison], some for a week. Some have minor injuries, some worse. Some have served [prison sentences] for many years, and many will have to, but they are sacrificing themselves.”
The opposition took this statement as a threat.
Judges as political allies
Particularly severe conclusions were drawn by the senators regarding judges appointed by the Parliament for life to the Supreme Court.
Quote from the letter:
“We are particularly concerned about the fact that the life-long appointment of 14 Supreme Court judges went without a full assessment of their qualifications. This undermines the judicial system of Georgia.
Will Georgia lose international support?
According to senators, Georgia has many friends and allies – but this support is not unconditional and can only be given to an “independent, democratic Georgia.”
Senators also believe that slowing down reforms and constant tension are good soil for “strengthening Russian meddling in the country and the region as a whole.”
Senators say they hope that the Georgian authorities will improve the situation and expect “quick action” from them.