The Georgian Dream takes one more step towards weakening the Parliament
On February 7, 2022, the Procedural Issues and Rules Committee of the Parliament supported the termination of powers of four members of the Parliament – Shalva Natelashvili, Elene Khoshtaria, Badri Japaridze, and Kakha Kuchava. As part of the same decision, the Committee supported the early termination of the powers of Badri Japaridze, the chairperson of an opposition faction, after the court of first instance had changed the qualification in the so-called money laundering case and delivered a disputed judgment of conviction in relation to Japaridze, under an article whose statute of limitations had expired. The issue is to be finally decided at a plenary session of the Parliament. Due to the fact that Lelo for Georgia withdrew its party list, Badri Japaridze will not be replaced by anyone in the event of termination of his powers and, therefore, the party will have one fewer member in the Parliament.
The termination of powers of the opposition MP for the said reason does not have solid legal grounds. According to Subparagraph D of Paragraph 5 of Article 39 of the Constitution of Georgia, the issue of early termination of the powers of a Member of Parliament of Georgia is to be decided by the Parliament. The Constitution indicates conviction by a court judgment as one of the grounds for early termination of powers. The conviction alone does not constitute the grounds for termination of powers. The reason why the Constitution requires decision of the issue by the Parliament is to allow MPs to deliberate on the expediency of termination of powers of their colleague, first of all, judging by the interests of the country and voters. It is also noteworthy that so far the case has only been decided on by the court of first instance, and the courts of higher instance may make different decisions, at a time when the MP’s powers will already have been terminated.
Unlike the case of Japaridze, the basis of the abolition of the parliamentary mandates of Shalva Natelashvili and Elene Khoshtaria is Article 6 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, which provides for early termination of the powers of MPs due to their absence from sessions for impermissible reasons. It is noteworthy that, in the case of Natelashvili and Khoshtaria, the Parliament has already refused, in a plenary vote, to confirm the early termination of powers on these grounds on one occasion. It should also be noted that, unlike the previous vote, Shalva Natelashvili has now publicly declared that he is considering getting involved in the parliamentary activities. Despite the fact that Natelashvili has not undergone the procedures for declaring boycott established by Article 91 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, his public statements about refusal to enter the Parliament can be regarded as equivalent to declaring boycott.
The role of the opposition at the time of exercising the supervisory function is particularly important in a parliamentary republic. Parliamentary control was an object of criticism for years. Granting certain rights to the opposition in the Constitution of Georgia and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament still does not allow opposition parties to exercise effective supervision on the executive branch of the government. In recent years, the Parliament of Georgia was distinguished by ineffectiveness of control, including in the area the management of the pandemic. The initial boycott of the opposition parties further weakened the legislative body and deepened the political crisis. After the opposition MPs have decided to get involved in the parliamentary work and also put forward concrete initiatives of parliamentary control, the unlawful and early termination of the powers of one of the leaders of the opposition is an alarming sign, which may aim at weakening the opposition and, consequently, at ineffective exercise of the supervisory function of the Parliament. There are doubts that the intent of early termination of the powers of the chairperson of the Lelo – Partnership for Georgia faction is also related to the faction’s activation in the area of anti-corruption struggle and aims to hinder the creation of a temporary investigative commission on establishing cases of elite corruption in Georgia.
We call upon the Parliament of Georgia not to support the early termination of powers and decide the issue on the basis of the country’s interests and political expediency.
We also call on the Parliament of Georgia to start deliberating on the possibility of restoring the so-called withdrawn lists by parties, which will help avoid a political crisis. The existing reality also shows that the practice of withdrawing the lists is problematic and poses a danger of abolishing seats in the Parliament, decreasing the number of MPs in the 150-member legislative body, and the ineffectiveness of the Parliament.
Transparency International Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy