EU urges Georgian politicians to find compromise, authorities respond with harsh statements
Georgian, EU officials at odds
Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell called on all political parties in Georgia to put the interests of the Georgian people first and find a compromise to overcome the ongoing political crisis.
However, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili responded by saying that the ruling party is not considering the fulfillment of the opposition’s main demand, the holding of new parliamentary elections.
Georgia’s opposition parties claim that the October 2020 parliamentary elections were rigged. MPs elected from the main opposition parties have boycotted parliament and demand repeat elections. In turn, government authorities consider the elections valid and refuse to schedule repeat new ones. All international organizations and diplomatic missions also believe that the elections were free, albeit with many violations.
“A boycott of parliament will not benefit Georgian democracy. Although no agreement has been reached between the political forces in Georgia, after a meeting with the prime minister, it became clear that he is ready for constructive cooperation”, Josep Borrell said at a joint press conference with the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels on March 16.
“The European Union has long been involved in promoting dialogue between political parties in Georgia. After the President of the European Council Charles Michel’s visit to Tbilisi in early March, we moved from facilitation to mediation”, Borrell added.
During that very same press conference, the prime minister of Georgia was far less optimistic.
Irakli Garibashvili said that the next elections will be held as planned, in 2024, and the release of prisoners [Nika Melia and another opposition politician imprisoned by Giorgi Rurua – JAMnews] is not his main concern:
“Politics does not guarantee immunity. If a politician commits a crime or breaks the law, he, of course, should be held accountable for his actions”, Garibashvili said.
Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani was even more radical. He said that the issue of holding repeat elections has been removed from the agenda once and for all, since the October 2020 parliamentary elections were recognized by all European partners and international observers, including the OSCE / ODIHR.
“Everyone can familiarize themselves with the results of the elections via the preliminary and final reports available to the general public”, Zalkaliani said.
Special Representative of the President of the European Council Christian Danielson has been in Tbilisi for several days now and has already met with the ruling party, government officials, and opposition leaders, and organized several rounds of negotiations between the current government and the opposition bloc. It is now expected that in the next several days, Danielson will present his proposals for overcoming the political crisis.
The visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia Garibashvili to Brussels runs parallel to this dialogue process.
How the political crisis unwrapped in Georgia – key events
The political crisis in Georgia began in October 2020 immediately after the results of the parliamentary elections were announced. Since then, large-scale street protests have been regularly held in Tbilisi and other cities. across Georgia
The situation escalated on February 23, 2021, after the authorities carried out a special operation, broke into the building of the leading opposition party, United National Movement, and arrested its leader, Nika Melia.
So far, several rounds of negotiations between the authorities and the opposition, facilitated by Western diplomats, have led to no agreement on the main issues that the country is faced with. The opposition continues to demand repeat parliamentary elections, while the government authorities refuse to satisfy their demands.
Government authorities are not satisfied with the proposed compromise
One option for a compromise#would be to hold a plebiscite instead of repeat elections. In this case, the people will decide whether or not they want early elections to be held.
The Georgian Association for Cooperation with the European Union issued a statement on March 16 saying that it “deeply regrets the deepening of polarization in Georgia”:
“It is vitally important that all political forces, with the support of the European Union, continue to work to resolve the political crisis in Georgia as soon as possible”.
The association’s statement also mentions the October 31, 2020 elections:
“The elections were competitive and all fundamental freedoms were protected”.
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“Government authorities wish to jeopardize negotiations”
“It is a shame that the authorities do not understand that living in such a political context is very bad for the country and for the ruling party itself, both right now and in the long run. It became clear that their words mean nothing. This means that the measures will be taken [against them]”, said the leader of the European Georgia Gigi Bokeria.
The leader of the opposition Agmashenebeli Strategy party, Giorgi Vashadze, believes that European diplomats will support the opposition’s call for repeat parliamentary elections in Georgia.
“I am sure that they will not agree to remove the issue of repeat elections from the agenda and focus mainly on the electoral and judicial reforms and political prisoners”, Vashadze said.
The leader of the Girchi – More Freedom party, Zurab Japaridze, believes that the ruling Georgian Dream party wants to disrupt the negotiations, and the mediators are trying to prevent this from happening.