The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has published its annual progress report taking stock of its activities since January 2020 and assessing the progress made by 14 countries in 2020, including in Georgia.
The report published on January 11 welcomes the political agreement of March 2020 between the Georgian politicians ‘on a more proportional election system’ the Assembly said it aimed to ensure ‘a more pluralist and representative composition of the parliament’.
However, it notes that ‘despite this agreement on the election system the political climate in Georgia remained polarised and contentious’.
Urging all political parties ‘to take up the seats they won in the new parliament and not to undermine its democratic functioning’ the Assembly ‘deeply regrets’ the decision of opposition parties to boycott the newly elected parliament.
The 10th convocation of the parliament of Georgia held its first session on December 11. Photo: Parliament's spress office
Regrettably the opposition parties, alleging widespread fraud, announced that they would boycott the second round and the new parliament. This is especially regrettable given that the results for opposition parties in these elections would give them a strong position to execute parliamentary oversight”, the report reads
Parliament is the place for the conduct of politics and debate and the Assembly has therefore consistently opposed parliamentary boycotts. In the best interest of the country all political parties are therefore urged to take up their parliamentary mandates”, it also says.
The report also cites the international election observation mission and main domestic observers from the International Society for Free and Fair Elections and of Transparency International saying that ‘the elections were competitive with fundamental freedoms respected and that parties could campaign freely’.
But it also notes that the monitoring organisations have noted ‘an uneven playing field as a result of the abuse of administrative resources and a blurring of the line between state and ruling party’.
This was compounded by weak regulations for campaign financing and transparency which allowed for clear financial advantage in favour of certain parties, including – or especially – the ruling party”, the report reads.
Adding that ‘regrettably observers also noted a continuing trend of pervasive allegations of pressure and intimidation of voters and party activists’, the Assembly says ‘it is essential that all allegations of electoral misconduct, which were of serious concern, are fully investigated and, if proven, perpetrators prosecuted’.
Opposition politicians and their supporters have been holding protest rallies since the first round of the parliamentary elections. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
The Assembly focuses on the developments in Georgia’s Russia-occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) where the situation ‘has continued to deteriorate, as the creeping annexation of these regions by the Russian Federation continues unabated, which is of serious concern’.
It says ‘contacts between Georgians inside and outside these two regions has become practically impossible’.
This has severe humanitarian consequences, as it has become increasingly more difficult, if not impossible, for inhabitants in these two Georgian regions to cross the administrative borderline for schooling or for (emergency) medical reasons in the rest of Georgia.
In the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia, the ruling Georgia Dream party has won the majority of seats, while eight opposition parties refused to take up their mandates claiming the elections have been rigged.
A nine-member PACE delegation travelled to Georgia from 29 October to 1 November along with the other international organisations to observe the conduct of the elections.