Democracy Index – Georgia evaluates the performance of the spring and special sessions of the Georgian Parliament
Democracy Index – Georgia is founded in 2019 and measures the quality of the democracy in the country by observing the performance of the Parliament. The organization regularly informs the public about the results of its observations through the weekly TV airings, public statements, and social media.
The results of the 2019 autumn sessions are reflected in the last report being available on the website of the organization. As for the present report, the results of the spring sessions are highlighted; and additionally, among them, the performance of the Parliament over the pandemic – in its special session - is evaluated. Further, the organization assessed the performance of the opposition – against the boycott declared by them.
Over the spring session of the Parliament the positive aspects were identified: a number of progressive steps were taken in the direction of legislation and governmental oversight. However, a broad picture shows that, basically, there was not a meaningful difference between autumn and spring sessions. The problems posed over the autumn session – relating to democratic engagement, active participation of civil society, and robust governmental control - were also present during the present session.
Over its spring session of 2020, the performance of the Parliament was positive in certain directions:
- To approach the EU standards and ensure democratic elections, the Parliament adopted several important laws, including the constitutional changes in electoral direction.
- In relation to inviting the Georgian Ministers to the Parliament the spring session turned out to be more active: while there was no case of invitation of ministers to the Parliament over the previous session, this time it was 6 of them: 2 cases were requested by committees and 4 - by the opposition MPs.
- The opposition uses the parliamentary question as a lever of governmental oversight.
- In the preparatory stage of certain draft laws, the engagement of civil society and the relevant experts was provided.
- There are several issues the Parliament resolved regarding the pandemic and the state of emergency: over the pandemic the Parliament declared the state of emergency in a timely manner and unanimously; It held the joint meeting with the representatives of the executive over the concerns of the Georgian citizens living abroad about the pandemic; the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament developed the recommendations towards the government relating to the economic empowerment of women and prevention of domestic violence at the time of the spread of the corona virus. It is also noteworthy that the opposition was occasionally active towards the Prime Minister during the interpellation.
- Comparing to the previous session the committees used the mechanism of thematic research relatively actively over the present session;
- Public reporting of fulfilled activities by the committees has been substantially improved comparing to the previous session.
- The main problems posed over the spring and special sessions were the following:
The accountability of individual MPs is low
- Like the previous session the activities of individual MPs are not public and subsequently, they are unknown to the public. Their parliamentary performance is not documented and reported simultaneously on the website of the Parliament.
- Overall, parliamentary questions have been used by the 22 members of the Parliament being, with several exceptions (Nino Tsilosani, Zaza Gabunia), the members of the opposition.
- Like the previous session, during this one as well, in response to the revealed problems from the complaints of civilians, corresponding issues have not been reflected in the agenda and have not been deliberated by the Parliament.
Transparency of the Parliamentary performance, engagement of public, and consideration of their opinions are low
- Deliberation of certain draft laws conducted in an accelerated manner without specific reason that hindered substantial consideration of the draft laws and the participation of the public.
- In the preparatory stage of certain draft laws there was a lack of engagement of interested stakeholders. Such law, for example, is the law “on the Rights of the Disabled Persons”
- Like the previous session, the engagement of the civil society is very low at every single time, their fierce protest over substantially important issues was ignored. There were cases of voting for the candidates at the high positions unacceptable to civil society or voting through the procedure unacceptable to them
- The parliament did not substantially consider the alternative reports submitted by civil society.
- In none of the cases where the individuals submitted legislative proposals, did these proposals become the draft laws; and consequently, participation of the public in law making process was ruled out.
The governmental oversight mechanism does not properly operate
- Governmental control by the Parliament is very low – the ministers regardless of being invited, rarely appear at the Parliament; in response to this, the Parliament did not take any efficient measure
- The reports of the Ministers practically are not considered or their hearing at the Parliament is not substantial. In many cases, parliamentary questions/comments are not related to the subject matter.
The performance of the Committees is low
- The most of the committees held only the minimum number of hearings or even less than minimum.
- The committees were passive in using their other powers as well, such as legislative initiatives; post legislative scrutiny; examining the activities of the administrative bodies; setting up temporary investigative commissions and other temporary commissions; study of judicial case law; inspection of compliance of normative acts with the legislation of Georgia.
Over the special session the Parliament was not functioning:
During the first time of the pandemic the Parliament turned out to be completely incapable – did not take any measure within its power of law making or governmental oversight.
The role of the opposition is weak
- The prolonged boycott declared by the opposition diminishes the role of the Parliament even more, and significantly weakens the opportunity for critical and substantial debate.
- The participation of the opposition in law making has been hindered regardless of their efforts. Specifically, the preparatory stages of the draft laws proposed by them were always delayed, therefore, deliberation of them was never possible.
- The opposition was not active enough in using the leverage of the governmental oversight such as requesting setting up the temporary investigative commissions, unlike the previous session.