Georgia’s Fragile Democratic Process – letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says his government is making ”progress through pragmatism.” This is hard to see when it comes to democracy and the rule of law.
In his Aug. 6 op-ed, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says his government is making ”progress through pragmatism.” This is hard to see when it comes to democracy and the rule of law in Georgia.
The former government had its shortcomings, but it was successful in fighting corruption, as vindicated by Georgia’s improved performance in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. The government of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, which had held office since the 2003 Rose Revolution, also steered Georgia through the ultimate test of democracy: a peaceful and orderly transition of power after last year’s parliamentary election, which saw decisive victory for Mr. Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition.
Mr. Ivanishvili may criticize the opposition, but he cannot deny that he assumed power peacefully, through a democratic election. This would not have been possible without the progress made under Mr. Saakashvili’s leadership. Yet now the Georgian Dream-led government is using legal institutions to threaten, harass and jail representatives of the opposition, putting this progress at stake.
In an interview with Le Monde in April, Prime Minister Ivanishvili spoke of the opposition this way: ”They scream and cry some more. They know how to spread lies. They are idiots who do not understand that their time is over. They should shut up or apologize.”
Asked by Le Monde if he thought his opponents should be imprisoned, Mr. Ivanishvili said: ”If the opposition persists in lying and ignoring the people, the queues before the public prosecutor will lengthen.”
A number of representatives of the opposition have since been prosecuted, arrested and jailed, including former prime minister Vano Merabishvili, currently the leader of the opposition and its candidate for the October presidential elections. All this is alarming and certainly not a pragmatic way forward for Georgia.
Gunnar Hökmark MEP
Group of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament