Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Georgia's parliamentarian refuseniks

Here in Georgia, opposition parliamentarians are boycotting parliament's general sessions. I am a consultant with the presidential administration of Georgia, but I don't think their complaints and demands are without justification (how's that for vague bureaucratic evasiveness?). Is there something I should do or say so that I'm not just sitting idly by?

From the report by Liz Fuller, the always excellent Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty news analyst:

The catalyst for the opposition boycott was the 31 March decision by the parliament majority to suspend the mandate of opposition deputy Valeri Gelashvili (Republican) on the grounds that parliamentarians are not permitted to engage in business activities. Gelashvili, a wealthy businessman, came under pressure from Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava in late March after a fire destroyed a school building in Tbilisi that Gelashvili hoped to acquire in order to construct a new school building on the same site.

Detailed lists published in various newspapers in recent weeks of businesses allegedly owned by government ministers and deputies from the majority United National Movement-Democrats faction suggest that the nominal ban on parliamentarians engaging in commercial activity is honored more in the breach than the observance. In that light, some might view the decision to strip Gelashvili of his deputy's mandate as vindictive or hypocritical, or both.

The opposition conditions for ending their boycott are:

  • changes to the election law that would give the opposition representation on election commissions and guarantee the secrecy of the ballot;
  • the introduction of direct elections for the post of mayor of Tbilisi and other major cities; the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili;
  • the dismantling of the Interior Ministry's so-called "death squads";
  • and the creation of a special parliamentary commission to investigate crimes those death squads are suspected of having committed.

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