Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Caucasus Report

Saakashvili, Parliamentary Minority Hound New Georgian Government

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (right) has been seemingly relentless in his criticism of the government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (left).
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (right) has been seemingly relentless in his criticism of the government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (left).
One month into the new year, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and leading members of his United National Movement (ENM) continue their methodical condemnation of each new initiative by the ruling Georgian Dream (KO) movement, which won a convincing majority in the October 1 parliamentary elections.

Visiting Tbilisi last week, Gianni Buquicchio, who heads the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, challenged some of Saakashvili’s accusations. At the same time, Buquicchio expressed qualified support for some of the constitutional amendments drafted by the KO with the aim of curtailing the president's powers.

The message that Saakashvili and the ENM consistently seek to convey is that the KO, and Ivanishvili personally, is pro-Russian, and for that reason not interested in membership of either NATO or the European Union; and that the new government’s domestic policies will undo everything the ENM achieved during its nine years in power in terms of democratization and strengthening the rule of law.

In recent weeks, the focus of Saakashvili’s criticism has shifted from “political persecution,” meaning the arrest of up to a dozen former senior officials suspected of corruption, to the KO’s foreign policy and the New Year amnesty under which some 3,000 prisoners were released from Georgia’s overcrowded jails.

The amnesty bill was signed into law by parliament speaker David Usupashvili after Saakashvili refused to do so. The beneficiaries included 190 people the KO considers political prisoners, some of whom had been sentenced on dubious evidence on charges of espionage for Russia, and six criminal kingpins who have since left Georgia.

Former Prime Minister and current ENM chairman Vano Merabishvili has predicted that the release of the latter will inevitably result in a significant upsurge in crime.

Meeting with party members in Tbilisi on February 1, he argued that “we must not give this government four years [in power]… It does not mean that we will stage a coup and overthrow it, but we should not let this government to implement the plan it has – to weaken Georgia.”

Buquicchio criticized the KO for not waiting for the Venice Commission’s evaluation of the amnesty bill before voting on it.

Saakashvili, for his part, singled out for special mention the release under the amnesty of Vahagn Chakhalian, a campaigner for the rights of the predominantly Armenian population of Georgia’s southern region of Djavakheti, which borders Armenia.

Chakhalian was sentenced in April 2009  to 10 years in prison on charges, which Armenian civil rights organizations said were unsubstantiated, of illegal possession of weapons, participating in mass disorders, resisting arrest, and "hooliganism." 

Saakashvili reacted to Chakhalian’s release by branding him “an enemy of the Georgian state” and an agent of Russian military intelligence.

He said the decision to release him from jail prematurely poses a serious threat to Georgia’s national security. (That allegation may have been based on the assumption that Chakhalian was in some way connected with a recent appeal to the Georgian leadership by natives of Djavakheti living in Russia to grant the economically-depressed region the status of a free economic zone. Saakashvili dismissed that suggestion as a manifestation of separatism.)

Georgia’s Minister for the Penitentiary System Sozar Subari asked why, if the previous leadership had evidence that Chakhalian was indeed in the pay of Russian intelligence, that charge did not figure in the indictment when he went on trial.

Pro-Western Affirmations

Both Ivanishvili and members of his government have repeatedly reassured Western officials that they have no intention of abandoning the pro-Western foreign policy espoused first by then President Eduard Shevardnadze and then by Saakashvili. Georgia’s commitment to seeking NATO membership was reaffirmed most recently at the annual Munich Security Conference by Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze.

Notwithstanding those repeated affirmations, the ENM last week announced a legislative initiative that would make a pro-Western policy legally binding for all future national governments. 

The KO responded by proposing that all parliament factions jointly draft and sign a document affirming their shared foreign policy vision.

But that offer failed to satisfy the EMN, which 24 hours later advocated drafting jointly with the KO a separate constitutional amendment “to reaffirm that Georgia’s only future is [a] European future and that Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration should continue.” 

Buquicchio indicated on January 31 that he considers such a constitutional amendment inappropriate.

Buquicchio conceded nonetheless that some articles of Georgia’s constitution urgently need amending. But at the same time, he said this should not be undertaken with undue haste, and that the maximum popular consensus is desirable.

Specifically, Buquicchio expressed qualified approval of the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the president’s power to dissolve parliament.

“I understand that for the sake of stability of the government and the parliament after the last parliamentary elections it is necessary to change the constitution in order to limit powers of the head of state [the president] to dismiss the government and appoint a new government without the authorization of the parliament,” Buquicchio was quoted as saying after meeting with  Ivanishvili.

Some analysts and politicians have expressed concern that Saakashvili could abuse that power to deliberately bring down Ivanishvili’s government and force a pre-term parliamentary election.
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Comment Sorting
by: Jack from: US
February 05, 2013 03:56
is the aspiring NATO minion Srakashvilli still on the lose?

by: Mamuka
February 05, 2013 11:46
So the opposition in Georgia is whining and complaining and making outrageous accusations? Great! Just like any other democracy.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 05, 2013 17:33
So, how is this confrontational situation in Georgia going to be resolved? Will Mischa and Ivanischwili limit themselves to verbally attacking each other in public or will one of them bring his supporters to the street at some point and try to organize another "revolution"?

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 08, 2013 07:19
Georgia, Ukraine and CIS nations about to make a tragic error,
As they did before, in 1936, thought it was then a "justification",
They where pure and weak, the Nazi Germany meant war
And Russia was threatening, ally with Hitler's aggression.

Even then, the 1936 Constitution gave warranty that CIS
Would be back after "industrialization" and victory in war,
If any - but after, Russia refused restore republics rights,
Influxed Russians, squeezed and plundered their Worlds.

This time World is different. Success, economy strength
And security can be achieved only with equality of friends,
Restoration of priorities and royalties of people creativity,
National and individual dignity and independent "relativity"
Among nations - not expanding the Feudal Russian trend.

Russia is against it since Varag invaded 11 centuries ago,
They would rather repopulate, by Russians and Germans,
lands, Cities and industries, like Bratsk, letting builders go
Back to the republics, turn homeless slaves. They attack
Neighbors, like Caucasus, and squeeze Europe, to wreck.

Russia taking over again - almost as CIS nations agreeing,
But they are not! Russia controlled nomenclature in USSR,
Much worse than under Czars - street blocks were fleeing,
When residing there telepaths and spies of Russia stinged.
The "controlled" are still in power, mind-controlled by "ugar".

I don't interfere with national choices, but Georgia and CIS
Must be vigilant and help to help their own country by those
That have noble soul, pure heart, elevated mind and brains
Preserve national and human future, without Russia-borsh
Of vanishing tribes, crawling to "Pamyatnik Nerukotvornyiy".

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.