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On 23 January 2014, the Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government was discussed at the plenary session of the Georgian Parliament. At the discussion, Member of the Parliament, Giorgi Gachechiladze, declared:  “Based upon the Law of Georgia on Self-Government (adopted in 1997), in 1998, assemblies were elected at the levels of villages, settlements, communities, etc. But in the self-government elections you [United National Movement] conducted in 2006, you completely eradicated the self-government from villages, settlements and communities.”

The abovementioned statement was made in response to Giorgi Tevdoradze’s words. In particular, according to MP Tevdoradze, it would be wise to let the people residing in the villages elect their village governors through direct votes. Therefore, a governor would be the person accountable to his/her own electors – the population of his/her village.

Giorgi Tevdoradze also stated that in the governing period of the United National Movement, self-government was flawed and this was reflected in the fact that self-governance was not exercised at the village, settlement and community levels. He added that despite the abovementioned, there were a number of positive moments as well such as the changes made in 2006 about mayors and governors (gamgebeli)

being appointed by the assemblies elected by the population. This was a progressive step if compared to the previous model when mayors and governors were appointed directly by the President of Georgia.

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took interest in the self-government related issues and analysed the amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government made during different periods.

On 16 October 1997, the Georgian Parliament adopted the Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government and Government. According to the Law, the local self-government was of a two-level nature. The first level comprised regional cities, settlements, communities and villages outside the communities (a total of 1,111 territorial units) while the second level encompassed Tbilisi and the cities outside the regional scope (a total of six) and 67 regions.

According to the Law of 1997, assemblies were elected by direct, universal, equal vote through secret ballot by the majoritarian system for the term of four years (Article 9, Paragraph 1). In villages, communities, settlements and towns with a population of less than 5,000, the chair of the assembly also served as the governor (Article 9, Paragraph 2).

In cities with a population of more than 5,000, governors were elected by direct, universal, equal elections through secret ballot for the term of the assembly’s authority. Cities outside of the scope of the region elected their mayors by direct vote for the term of four years (Article 10, Paragraph 3). The mayor of Tbilisi, being the supreme official of the capital, was appointed by the President of Georgia.

As for the regions, their assemblies (a representative body) were comprised by the chairs of the representative bodies of the self-governing units. The executive authority of the regions was the assembly. Only the President could appoint or dismiss the head of the assembly (gamgebeli/

governor) from its members.

On 16 December 2005, the Georgian Parliament replaced the Law on Local Self-Government of 1997 with the Organic Law of Georgia that was enacted after the local self-government elections of 2006 and which is still active. According to the current Law, local self-government is not exercised at the level of villages, communities, settlements and cities. Therefore, only one level is active from the two-level system of self-government meaning that local self-government is implemented only at the municipal level. Local self-government is exercised in 67 municipalities (the municipalities are the legal successors of the former regions) and five cities.

A municipality assembly is elected through direct vote for the period of four years. The chairperson of the assembly has the authority to appoint and dismiss the municipality governor and the mayor of the self-governing city with the consent of the city assembly (Tbilisi is an exception from this rule as its mayor is elected by direct vote). A decision of the assembly is authorised if supported by more than half of its members (Articles 20, 21).

On 5 February 2014, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the Code of Self-Government that will be enacted after the self-government elections of 2014. Just as in the case of the Organic Law on Local Self-Government of 2005, the new Code will also allow the local self-government to be exercised at the municipal level – in self-governing cities and communities (Article 3). The self-governing cities are defined by the abovementioned Organic Law:  Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti, Batumi, Telavi, Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Gori, Ambrolauri, Mtskheta and Akhaltsikhe (Article 151, Paragraph 1).

According to the aforementioned Code, the municipality assemblies are to be elected for the term of four years by the citizens of Georgia registered on the territory of the municipality by direct, universal, equal vote, through secret ballot. The gamgebeli/

mayor is to be elected by direct, universal, equal vote, through secret ballot for the term of four years (Articles 23, 49).

Similar to the Organic Law on Local Self-Government of 2005, the new Code does not exercise self-government at the level of villages, settlements and communities.

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also got in touch with the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Tengiz Shergelashvili (Shergelashvili was the one to present the draft Code of the Local Self-Government to the Parliament). We took interest in whether or not there are plans to start exercising self-government at the level of villages, settlements and communities in the future. The Deputy Minister stated that self-government was not planned to be implemented at this level, however, creating public councils that would serve as an additional form of local self-government exercised by citizens was intended to be included in the initial version of the draft Code. After the Parliamentary hearings the abovementioned public councils were not taken into consideration; nevertheless, the Government of Georgia was instructed to prepare a draft bill about the introduction of the new additional forms of self-government exercised by citizens and submit it to the Parliament by 1 January 2015.

Conclusion

As illustrated, self-government was exercised at the level of villages, settlements and communities in the Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government and Government of 1997. This designation was removed from the Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government adopted in 2005. It is not envisioned in the Code of Georgia on Local Self-Government of 2014. It can be implied that Georgia’s self-government contained a number of advantages and disadvantages at all levels of its development. For instance, despite the fact that assemblies and governors were elected by direct vote at the level of villages, settlements and communities (this is a positive step towards decentralisation and democracy) according to the Law of 1997, the governors of the regions were appointed by the President of Georgia. In the Organic Law of 2005, as well as the Code of 2014, direct elections of self-government are not envisaged at the level of villages, settlements and communities but governors/mayors are to be elected by direct vote.

Giorgi Gachechiladze is right when declaring that the direct elections at the level of villages, settlements and communities were removed from the Organic law of 2005; although, it should be mentioned that the Code of 2014 does not give this right back to the population of villages and communities.

Of further note is the fact that Giorgi Gachechiladze’s criticism of his opponent is not completely relevant as he does not give his opponent an argumentative response and only discusses the mistakes of the previous years that are not addressed in the new legislation instead of speaking about the essence of the problem.

Based upon all of the aforementioned, we conclude that the statement of MP Gachechiladze:  “Based upon the Law of Georgia on Self-Government (adopted in 1997), in 1998, assemblies were elected at the levels of villages, settlements, communities, etc. But in the self-government elections you [United National Movement] conducted in 2006, you completely eradicated the self-government from villages, settlements and communities,” is HALF TRUE.

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