Georgian Parliament overrides Presidential veto on Amnesty law

David UsupashviliIn a move unprecedented in Georgia’s modern political history, the Georgian parliament has overridden a Presidential veto, and enacted into law an amnesty that affects all of Georgia’s large prison population except those serving a life sentence.

On Sunday, 13 January 190 persons who the Georgian parliamentary had earlier declared to be political prisoners were released from prison. Amongst them were many who had been involved in various attempts to bring down the government of President Saakashvili over the last three years.

The long constitutional process started in December when the Parliament approved the amnesty law. President Mikheil Saakashvili refused to sign the law, and sent it back to parliament. In a second vote, which also showed how much the strength of the pro Saakashvili United National Movement had weakened in parliament since the October elections, the veto was overturned with 91 votes against 24. Three fifths of the members of parliament (89 MPs) were required by the Constitution for the presidential veto to be overturned.

The President then had until 11 January to sign the bill, and in case that he did not, the Chairman of Parliament had the right to sign it instead.

On 12 January, Parliamentary Chairman David Usupashvili signed the law in a televised event triggering the release of about 3,000 prisoners, as well as reduction of prison terms for thousands of others. More…


cew collageIn an end of year essay on the state of play in the South Caucasus, long time regional analyst Dennis Sammut says that democrats in the South Caucasus, and their friends, need not be ecstatic about the achievements of 2012. But they can allow themselves a moment of optimism and satisfaction.

Fragile gains give hope

There has not been a single revolution. The three Presidents who held office at the beginning of the year were still sitting in their palaces as the year end approached. Yet in many respects 2012 has been an unprecedented and momentous year for the countries of the South Caucasus and one that is bound to leave its mark on the future politics of the region.

By and large democracy has won. An opposition party thrashed the ruling party in parliamentary  elections in Georgia. Parliamentary elections in Armenia were deemed better than previous ones and five political forces gained seats in the new National Assembly, and in Azerbaijan pro-democracy activists carved a larger space for their activity through clever use of new media, whilst a much predicted post Eurovision crack-down on dissent failed to materialise.

The fragile gains of 2012 give hope that the region has turned the corner in its efforts towards democratic state-building, but democracy is far from secure. There remains a serious democratic deficit and none of this year’s gains are as yet consolidated, so they can easily be swept away. But for once, it does no harm to be optimistic. More…

The Prime Minister of Georgia visits NATO

No Georgian please. We’re NATO!

The Secretary General of NATO , Anders Fogh Rasmussen, last week nearly became the first victim of Georgia’s new system of political cohabitation when he got caught into the controversy surrounding the arrest and charging of senior military and security officials from the previous government on accusations of abuse of power.

Rasmussen’s facebook page was bombarded with Georgians commenting on various statements that the Secretary General made throughout the week, as he met with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Prague and later in Brussels with the new Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili. The problem was that many of the comments were in Georgian. At a press conference with Ivanishvili, Rasmussen reminded all Georgians that the official languages of the NATO alliance were English and French and asked them not to post in Georgian. More…

COMMENTARY: No honeymoon period for Ivanishvili’s government

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

Most new governments enjoy a brief honeymoon period at the start of their administration: a time when they can bask in the glory of their victory and a period of grace that the public that elected them allows them before they start demanding that they deliver on their electoral promises. It has now become clear that the government of Bidhzina Ivanishvili in Georgia, which was confirmed by parliament on 25 October, is not going to have such a luxury, as it starts to come to terms with a wide range of problems that they inherited from the previous government.

At the same time as it walks the delicate tightrope of political co-habitation, the new Georgian government is facing challenges in a number of fields, ranging from a tense situation in the prisons , to strike action in some key industries, to having to deal with a financial gap in the budget. The government had not even been properly approved by parliament when a number of problems started emerging, none so far resulting from anything of its own doing. The victory of the Georgian Dream coalition in the 1 October elections raised expectations amongst vast sections of the Georgian population. More…

Comment: The significance of the Georgian political earthquake is still sinking in.

The first meeting of the new Georgian Government held in Kutaisi on 25 October 2012.

It has been a month since the 1 October Georgian elections which resulted in a landslide victory for the Georgian Dream coalition of Bidhzina Ivanishvili. In terms of Georgian politics, and indeed region wide, this has been a political earthquake.

Not only has an incumbent government in the region been defeated through the ballot box for the first time, and not only has the transfer of power been done in a by and large proper fashion; It is also an earthquake because very few saw it coming.

Many diplomats in Tbilisi are with egg on their face. Their political reporting to their respective capitals over the last year failed to prepare their governments for the change of power. This flaw is particularly acute amongst Embassies of the European Union member states and institutions. The somewhat clumsy way in which the EU acted in the period immediately before and after the election raises some questions. Lessons need to be learned because if people think that this has not been noticed they are wrong. More…

High hopes as committed democrat takes over key post.

The election of David Usupashvili as Chairman of the Georgian Parliament sends an important signal that the new Georgia embraces the rule of law.

In one of its first decisions after reconvening after the historic 1 October Parliamentary elections, the new Georgian Parliament elected David Usupashvili as its new Chairman. The election of Usupashvili sends a strong signal to Georgian citizens, and the international community at large that the new Georgian government will respect the rule of law and will submit itself to proper parliamentary scrutiny. More…