Georgia: Naked truth under the cover of justice

Lasha Tughushi, "Liberal Academy of Tbilisi" Foundation (Georgia, Tbilisi)

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The Chair of Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee Eka Beselia faced large-caliber political weapons aimed at her after announcing the resignation from the post.

Domestic Policy

Judicial reform under threat

Ms. Beselia prevented the nomination of the judges for Supreme Court who stained their reputation, and thus fell out of favor with her own political team. According to the Georgian legislation, the candidates for the Supreme Court judges are listed by the High Council of Justice and then should be appointed by the Parliament.

“They wanted to hastily slip the list on a torn piece of paper on New Year’s Eve, but it did not work out”, – that is how Beselia commented on the situation. “My resignation stood in their way, as, according to the procedure, it was only me who as the chairperson, had the right to nominate judges”.

The Parliament’s speaker Irakli Kobakhidze replied that the MP broke the rules of team game, demonstrating the party’s laundry to outsiders. Ms. Beselia found herself under fire as a dirty PR campaign was launched against her. Compromising videos containing sex scenes allegedly involving the MP were spread in social networks. The police detained sixteen people suspected of keeping and distributing such private videos. It is yet unknown how exactly the files ended up in the hands of the detainees, who is behind such political harassment and what they are aiming at. As tensions were rising within the party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the party’s leader, had to step in. At least one thing is clear: the scandal damages the reputation of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party already preparing for the parliamentary elections next year.

According to many, the judicial reform is the main obstacle on the way to democratic Georgia. The main problem lies in the dependency of the court on political influence and nepotism. The four waves of reforming the judicial system had a jigsaw pattern. The reform itself turned out to be the hardest challenge for the authorities. Well-known non-governmental organizations signed a manifest demanding to clear the judicial power from the discredited members of the Council of Justice. This issue led to public sector fleeing the streets to protest and as a result becoming the top topic for all serious Georgian mass media.


Contributory pensions

The new pension reform will definitely impact the lives of all Georgian citizens of legal age. Starting January 1, 2019, everyone who permanently resides in the country and has a job is automatically included into the country’s pension program. For every Georgian citizen under 40 the participation in the program is mandatory as a participant has no right to leave the program at will.

The accumulative system will work on a 2+2+2 scheme. It means that each employee, employer and the government will make a contribution of 2% of the gross volume of the employee’s income to an individual retirement account. It is only possible to get a pension for citizens of the appropriate age, 65 for men and 60 for women correspondingly. At the same time any participant has the right to postpone pension payment based on their request or request to get the entire sum as one payment.

Challenged citizens will be able to withdraw the money from the account before the pension age comes. The same right is granted to a person leaving Georgia forever.

Despite a great number of interpretations, citizens do not feel comfortable as there is no tradition of long-term investment in the country. Nobody knows what is going to happen with the national currency over the course of years, what the purchasing power of GEL will be like tomorrow, if the people of Georgia will be fooled yet again or not. Employers are not happy about it as it is an additional financial burden. However, the law has been adopted and this means that the first payments to the pension fund have already been made.

Foreign Policy

Religious issues

Georgia finds itself in a rather delicate position after the Ecumenical Patriarch called on all Orthodox Churches to support the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Russian Church, unlike the State of Russia, did not recognize the independence of the churches of the separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. The possibility of such recognition is a weighty argument against the state of Georgia and a great tool for political negotiations.

The chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, has already had a chance to speak about the consequences for Georgia in case it recognized the independency of Orthodox Church of Ukraine. His statements were dubbed as “un-due pressure” by the Georgian patriarch. However, there is no united position on the issue among the leaders of the Georgian Church. The country’s top officials are also playing it safe.

“It would be easy to congratulate Ukraine, however, I did not do it because our Patriarchate is cautious about it”, said the president of the country Salome Zurabishvili.

The pro-Western opposition and political experts took a rather strong stand on the issue, some of them even started to mention Russia’s influence on the Church of Georgia. Meanwhile, religious visits to Georgia became more frequent, coming both from Moscow and from Western religious centers.

The Georgian Patriarchate should make a decision in the near future following the decisions made by other autocephalic Orthodox churches. Given the sensitive nature of the issue, there is a possibility of Russia taking a heavy toll yet again on Tbilisi interests.