Georgia: Searching for a Way Out of the Deadlock

Lasha Tughushi, Liberal Academy Tbilisi (Tbilisi, Georgia)

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If country’s ruling party and opposition do not reach an agreement in the near future, the parliament will not have enough time to adopt constitutional amendments and the parliamentary elections in October will be held under the old system. 


Domestic Policy

Two Out of Three Arrested Opposition Activists Pardoned 

On May, 15 the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili made the first step to escape from a political deadlock and signed a decree on pardoning opposition leaders: Gigi Ugulava, the leader of “European Georgia” party, and the former Georgia’s minister of defense Irakli Okruashvili. 

“I am not pardoning political prisoners here, as I can state with full responsibility that today there are no political prisoners in Georgia. A politician that is in prison for committing a serious crime everybody knows about is not a political prisoner but simply a guilty politician”, the President of Georgia said. 

The release of three opposition leaders was the key point of the agreement between the ruling and opposing parties reached on March, 8 with such mediators as US and EU ambassadors present. However, Giorgi Rurua, one of founders and shareholders of Mtavari TV Channel, is still under arrest. While Ugulava and Okruashvili had already been sentenced by court and the president could resort to presidential pardon, with Rurua the situation is different as there is still no sentence and the trial is ongoing. 

Implementing the agreement clauses was supposed to unblock the review of constitutional amendments in order to have enough time for reforming the electoral system and hold parliamentary elections in October according to the system that would be as close as possible to proportional representation. To do that the government needs opposition votes, while the opposition itself is not ready to compromise. According to the opposition, the agreement implied the release of all arrested politicians, even though the ruling party denies that.  

When tensions intensified on both sides, the ruling party turned to ambassadors, who were mediators when signing the agreement, with a request to clarify its conditions. The latter backed out in a diplomatic way. At the same time yet another warning to “Georgian Dream” was given by Senator Jim Risch, the chairman for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his statement the senator used the term “political prisoners” and called on Georgia to implement the March agreement releasing all prisoners. 

Strong warnings are also voiced in the European Parliament and they are addressed to the “Georgian Dream” as well. Andrius Kubilius, Co-president of Euronest and a Lithuanian MP in European Parliament, made an extensive statement and reminded Georgian authorities about EU financial assistance that Georgia may lose if the government does not fulfill the obligations under the agreement. 

The nearest future will see the Parliament considering the final draft of the constitutional amendments that were agreed upon. The majority needs opposition votes. Otherwise, the agreement will fail and changes will not be adopted, which will result in undermining the current situation.  



“According to the opposition, the agreement implied the release of all arrested politicians, even though the ruling party denies that”




Pandemic Aftermath

In April 2020 Georgia’s GDP went down by 16,6% against the same period last year. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the recession was mostly determined by lower foreign trade turnover numbers, as well as lower turnover numbers of enterprises-GDP payers in construction, trade, processing industry, transport, real estate, culture, entertainment and leisure, hospitality as well as in restaurant business.  

For instance, building materials import went down by 34%, cement and clinker – by 65%. Trade recession is mostly the result of lower trade volume in cars and spare parts. Cars re-export level decreased by 87%, while the import of petroleum products dropped by 27%. 

Yet at the same time Georgian government announced its decision to end lockdown restrictions by the end of May. Therefore, starting May, 29 public transport in cities resumed its operation in the country, as stated by the prime minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia at the meeting of Coordination Council. Transportation between cities and towns will be resumed starting June, 8, with masks being obligatory for passengers. Those companies responsible for municipal transport or owners of private transportation facilities will be in charge of making sure passengers stick to the rules. 

Starting June, 1 all shops will open including shopping centers, open-air and indoor markets as well as open-air restaurants, while starting June, 8 it will be possible to visit indoor premises of restaurants as well.  Moreover, hotels will open their doors too, but only those that get previously checked by the relevant institutions of the Ministry of Health and will have a special permit. 

Despite the fact that the prime minister announced the beginning of tourism season, there are still many questions that have not been answered yet: which countries will be able to ensure crossing Georgian borders for their citizens, where exactly tourists will be accommodated etc. So far only general guidelines have been developed – the so-called green zones will be created while hotels will have to be ready to correspond to relevant standards. 

At the same time international mass media, for instance, CNN, Washington Post, Financial Times and others actively promote Georgia’s successful fight against COVID-19 as well as the country’s big tourism potential, however, more information is needed. 


Foreign Policy 

Russia Wants to Check Lugar Laboratory 

In Georgia there is a crucial aspect in its successful fight with coronavirus, namely, it is believed to be a top level research facility that is first and foremost connected with the so-called Lugar laboratory. Low mortality rates are directly related to expert studies and research. 

During the pandemic crisis the Russian side renewed their own conspiracy theory against Lugar Research Center and strongly requested to inspect the laboratory. The ministry of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation made a statement that Russian specialists need to have access to all facilities of the Lugar center in order to examine the activities of the center. 

“It’s been already 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Russia and Moscow are not our rulers anymore”, – replied Amiran Gamkrelidze, the head of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC). It seems that tensions are going to intensify in the near future. 


Photo: Georgian opposition protests
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