Performance Assessment of the Parliament 2023 - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Performance Assessment of the Parliament 2023

10 July, 2024

In 2023, the Parliament became a closed institution. It transformed into an even more inaccessible and non-transparent institution for representatives of civil society and critical media. The denial of access to enter the Parliament and attend committee sessions was made without providing specific justification, citing only the general security regulations of the Parliament.  The Parliament has ceased the release of public information that could potentially be used as grounds for criticism against MPs. 

Granting the status of candidacy of the European Union to Georgia marked a pivotal event for the country in 2023.  The role of the Parliament is crucial on the path of European integration.

In response to our request for public information, the Parliament did not provide us with the information it has routinely provided for the last 10 years:  the count of speeches delivered by MPs and details on disciplinary actions taken against them, complete information on the activities of the committees.

Key findings

Granting the status of candidacy of the European Union to Georgia marked a pivotal event for the country in 2023.  The role of the Parliament is crucial on the path of European integration.

In February 2023, members of the parliamentary majority from Georgian Dream’s offshoot “People’s Power” introduced two draft laws to the Parliament: “On the transparency of foreign influence” which was approved by the Parliament in the first reading. The discussion of the draft laws sparked considerable tension in society. The protests persisted from March 2 to March 8. . After the large-scale protest the ruling party decided to withdraw the bills. The people's resistance and their commitment to a European path played a crucial role in the country achieving candidate status for EU membership.

Further improvement of the implementation of parliamentary oversight notably of the security services is one of the steps defined by the European Commission as a condition for granting the status of a candidate country to Georgia.

Some of the nine conditions defined for Georgia continue the 12 recommendations issued by the European Commission in June 2022, while some are completely new. Georgia fully implemented three out of twelve conditions.

Statistical data

●    12 ministerial hours and 6 interpellations were held in 2023;

●    Accountable persons were summoned to the committee sittings 6 times (in 5 cases the initiator was the opposition, in 1 case the committee). The accountable person attended the session 5 times;

●   The deliberation period extensions were utilized in a total of 111 times for 73 legislative packages (245 bills)

●   The number of parliamentary questions decreased, 47 MPs sent a total of 2,997 questions to ministers and accountable persons, of which 77 were from the majority MPs, and 2,920 were from the opposition.[1] Opposition MP Tinatin Bokuchava sent the most questions (582 questions).

●   3 requests for the establishment of a temporary investigative commission were lodged in the parliament, all of which were initiated by the opposition. However, in none of these instances was the investigative commission formed.

The activity of Members of the Parliament

●       A total of 1,836,033.17 GEL was allocated for overseas business trips of the 98 members of Parliament.

●       The highest number of bills (105 bills) from the majority was initiated by Irma Zavradashvili, and from the opposition by Aleksandre Rakviashvili (74 bills);

●       Cezar Chocheli from the opposition missed plenary sessions the most times (23 absences) and from the majority Eliso Bolkvadze (13 absences)

●       Giorgi Godabrelidze from the opposition missed plenary sessions the most times without valid reasons (16 absences) and from the majority Mariam Lashkhi (10 absences)

[1] In 2022, 52 members of the Parliament posed 5093 questions.

Important Legislative Amendments

Among the laws regarded as progressive are the following: new legislation regarding personal data protection and an amendment to the anti-corruption law, which mandates prosecutors to disclose asset declarations. 

The following legislative changes are negatively evaluated: an initiative for a preliminary prohibition on temporary constructions during gatherings and demonstrations, modifications to broadcasting regulations concerning the management of hate speech, and amendments to accountability and oversight provisions in the Rules of Procedure.

Major challenges

●      The openness and transparency of the Parliament drastically deteriorated in 2023. The denial of access to enter the Parliament and attend committee sessions was made without providing specific justification, citing only the general security regulations of the Parliament. The New Media Accreditation Rule  made the parliament even more closed and opaque to critical media representatives; 

Parliamentary oversight deteriorated due to amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, where it is no longer mandatory for the majority to review the reports of the accountable body during plenary sessions.

Oversight over the security sector remains weak. The Trust Group still operates without being fully manned. 

A temporary investigative commission has not been established in the Parliament. The majority is actively obstructing the formation of such a commission through artificial barriers. It is worth noting that the draft resolution for establishing a temporary investigative commission to probe corruption and other illicit activities within the judicial system was not voted on, as the majority MPs did not register before the session. As MPs stated this was an “act of solidarity” with, sanctioned judges;

Ministers and other accountable persons did not respond promptly and fully to MP’s questions, especially when the author was an opposition MP. A total of 791 unanswered parliamentary questions were submitted by the opposition, constituting 27% of their overall inquiries. Conversely, only 5 questions posed by the majority remained unanswered, representing a mere 6% of their total questions.

● Despite the adoption of the Code of Ethics, the establishment of the Ethics Council has been delayed until now, resulting in the inability to enforce the provisions outlined in the Code of Ethics.

● The consideration of bills on the fast track remains a challenge.  The Parliament adopted 122 laws in an expedited manner.  

● The discussion of the legislative proposal is merely pro forma;

Recommendations

Parliamentary Oversight

The following steps should be taken to enhance effective parliamentary oversight over the security sector:

●   Parliamentary oversight of the security sector should be enhanced. For comprehensive parliamentary control of the State Security Service, a specialized parliamentary body (committee, sub-committee, or trust group with an expanded mandate) should be established exclusively dedicated to overseeing the security sector. The Parliament’s mandate and authority for overseeing the security sector should be enhanced. The independent expert council should be created within the specialized body.

●  Parliamentary oversight should be fully enacted, with proper assurances of supervision outlined in the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. Specifically, full participation of the opposition should be guaranteed. Activity reports submitted by independent bodies to the parliament should be mandatorily reviewed during plenary sessions; The majority should not obstruct the opposition’s use of oversight mechanisms through artificial barriers;

●    When appointing heads of bodies accountable to Parliament, it should be mandatory to consult with opposition factions to prevent politicized decisions. The rule of decision-making through agreement with them should be explicitly enshrined in the Rules of Procedure.

Legislative Process

●  The legislative process concerning significant national matters should occur amidst extensive discussions and expert involvement. MPs should consider public opinion throughout this process, and the potential impact of regulations should be carefully assessed during significant legislative changes.

●       Bills should only be expedited or prolonged in their deliberation in exceptional cases;

●     Legislative proposals should not become a pro forma tool for civic engagement. The Parliament should review legislative proposals promptly and allow the authors to present their opinions to the committee.

Openness and Transparency

●     The Parliament should encourage the involvement of civil society and the media in its activities and avoid creating artificial barriers.

●    The Parliament should ensure the involvement of civil society and the media in its activities and refrain from obstructing their participation through legislative changes or violations of existing rules;

●     The Parliament should release public information within designated timeframes and in accordance with the law, thereby ensuring transparency and accountability of the legislative body. Access to the Parliament should not be unreasonably restricted for media and civil society representatives.

●  In order to implement the Code of Ethics, it is essential for the parliament to expeditiously appoint members of the Ethics Council. In recent years, both verbal and physical confrontations between MPs have become more frequent, with no effective mechanisms in place to address them properly.

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