Georgian gov’t considering extending certain coronavirus restrictions without declaring state of emergency
Georgia may pass a law that will allow the government to pass coronavirus restrictions without declaring a state of emergency.
The opposition says the bill contradicts the constitution and is very beneficial to the authorities on the eve of the parliamentary in the fall of 2020.
A bill has been tabled in the Georgian parliament which, if passed, will give the government the right to introduce certain restrictions, even if a state of emergency is not declared in the country.
The opposition claims the bill would be unconstitutional and could be used as a dangerous lever in the hands of the government, especially because Georgia goes to the polls to vote in parliamentary elections in October 2020.
For example, the government may prohibit meetings of more than ten people, or bring back a curfew.
Neither the declaration of a state of emergency, nor the consent of parliament will be required to introduce such measures.
The government of Georgia has the right to introduce restrictions even now – the state of emergency declared in connection with the coronavirus pandemic came to an end on May 22, but the government is empowered by special law to introduce restrictions until July 15.
The government of Georgia is demanding the extension of this norm in order to be able to limit the constitutional rights of citizens until January 1, 2021 without the permission of the parliament.
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Georgia goes to the polls to vote in parliamentary elections in October 2020 – the introduction of such restrictions could be used as a dangerous lever in the hands of the government, some politicians and experts say.
The opposition says that if the bill is approved, the government will use it to prevent the opposition from conducting an election campaign and protests under the pretext of the threat of the spread of coronavirus.
According to the bill, the purpose of the amendment is to extend the existing legal mechanism beyond July 15, 2020, which will allow the government to take immediate and effective measures to combat the pandemic.
“We must hold elections at the appointed time and in no case should we declare a state of emergency in September or October due to a small problem. Therefore, there should be regulations that will allow us to effectively manage the situation, as we have managed so far, in the event of a small outbreak or aggravation of the epidemiological situation,” explained Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority.
Opposition and non-governmental organizations consider the bill unconstitutional, and believe that if it is adopted, the government will seek complete control over the situation in the run up to the elections – the parliamentary elections in Georgia are scheduled for October, and a second round of single-mandate constituencies may take place in November.
“The ruling Georgian Dream party has adopted an unconstitutional law that ignores the role of parliament and allows the government to restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens. Now they are going to extend this regime until January 1, which is unacceptable for us,” said Otar Kakhidze, a European Georgia party member and MP.
The parliamentary opposition will not support the bill.
The epidemiological situation in Georgia remains stable and under control, thanks to which Georgia was one of 15 non-EU countries to which the European Commission recommended member states open their borders.