The Georgian Parliament, on its first reading, passed a draft law with 165 votes to two on April 5, paving the way for the creation of a provisional administrative entity in South Ossetia.
The entity aims at creating tools, which will help to resolve the conflict peacefully, to define the region’s autonomous status and to prepare for democratic elections, according to the draft legislation.
The draft law is in fact little more than a declaration of intent to establish a provisional administrative-territorial entity. A separate resolution, which Parliament will most likely pass in the nearest future, is required to actually establish the entity.
The document was presented to Parliament by a former lawmaker from the ruling National Movement party, Nika Gvaramia, who has just been appointed as deputy chief prosecutor.
He told lawmakers that the authorities wanted this law to be “maximally flexible” which would leave more room for maneuver.
Gvaramia said that it was more a “political document, or declaration,” which is designed to send a major message to the local population in South Ossetia, as well as to the international community.
“This message is that we are ready to grant them wide-ranging autonomy and we intend to do it through the broad involvement of the local population in the process of defining the region’s autonomous status,” Nika Gvaramia said.
According to the draft, the president will be entitled to nominate “representatives of local political forces and representatives of local society” as the authorities of the administrative entity.
Gvaramia said that this is one of “the most important parts” of the document.
“By this we mean that we are ready to cooperate with everyone – whether it is [South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard] Kokoity, or [pro-Tbilisi alternative leader Dimitri] Sanakoev] - who will respond positively to our calls for talks on defining the region’s autonomous status,” he said.
He said that another important part of the document is that it will give those officials who have been selected to lead this provisional administration the right to hold peace talks.
Gvaramia also explained that after the law goes into force – Parliament has yet to approve it with the second and third hearings and then the president has to sign it into law – the president will issue a special decree which will delegate authority to the provisional administration.
He also said that the borders of the administration will be defined in a separate document which will be agreed jointly by Parliament and the president.
“The borders of this future administration should not necessarily involve the entire territory of South Ossetia,” Gvaramia said.
He noted that the provisional administration is also a tool for carrying out infrastructure rehabilitation in the region, which will be funded from the state budget.
All the major opposition groups in Parliament have supported the draft law. After the adoption of a pro-NATO declaration in March, this is the second time in recent months when a proposal has received near unanimous support.
“After consultations with President our faction is ready to support the proposal... It gives a chance to move forward towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” MP Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the opposition New Rights Party, said.
He hailed the authorities’ decision to invite opposition leaders to participate in the process of drafting the proposal and expressed hope that the cooperation would also continue during the implementation phase.
“We have assumed responsibility by supporting this draft and we are ready to assume even more responsibility… but we will assume this responsibility only if we will be able to be involved in the implementation process,” MP Gamkrelidze said.
An influential lawmaker from the ruling National Movement Party, Giga Bokeria, said in response that the authorities were ready for further cooperation with the opposition on this issue.
“We are in the same boat… I think that it is very important that this initiative is a result of broad political consensus… Our strong will is to continue consultations during the [proposal] implementation process,” MP Bokeria said.
Opposition lawmakers from the Industrialist, Conservative and Republican Parties have also voiced support for the draft law.
The two MPs who voted against the draft law were Gocha Jojua and Gogi Tsulaia – lawmakers affiliated with the newly set up National Forum. The party has been labeled by the authorities as “pro-Russian” because of their anti-NATO stance.
“I think this draft law is only a PR campaign by the authorities aimed at creating the illusion that there is a breakthrough in the conflict resolution process. I do not see how this proposal will get us closer to conflict resolution,” MP Jojua told lawmakers during the hearings.
During the parliamentary hearings, an MP from the opposition Republican Party, Ivliane Khaindrava, hailed the authorities for providing fresh initiatives, but also warned that “the initiative should not be a goal in itself.”
In his speech MP Khaindrava recalled all those initiatives, or peace plans which have been voiced by the Saakashvili’s administration since 2004.
“In summer 2004 we had so called ‘humanitarian storm’… followed by military] adventurous campaign which was a huge mistake… Then we started to engage in talks within the framework of the Joint Control Commission, which turned out to be fruitless. Then we had an internationally supported peace plan in 2005… but it is now already forgotten… Then there was a plan on infrastructure rehabilitation which was also supported by the international community, but it has also somehow faded away,” MP Khaindrava said.
He said that although all of these peaceful initiatives were “reasonable” none of them was fully implemented.
“The reason for their failure has not been analyzed, which I think is a mistake… Moving ahead should be based on analyzing previous steps,” MP Khaindrava added.
But a lawmaker from the ruling party, Giga Bokeria, rejected the criticism and said that the authorities are pursuing a consistent policy and all steps undertaken in respect of conflict resolution “were a logical continuation of previous moves.”