Ten opposition parties, campaigning jointly for early parliamentary polls, outlined their priorities in a joint twelve-point manifesto issued on October 17.
The document reads that the only way out of the current “political crisis” would be parliamentary elections sometime in spring 2008, instead of late next year.
The joint manifesto by ten opposition parties, outlining their vision on elections, the distribution of powers, the judiciary, territorial integrity, local self-governance, free media, property rights, business, social policy, national values and foreign policy, does not necessarily mean that the parties will form an electoral bloc and run for elections on a joint ticket.
The document, however, says: “We are and will remain committed to these fundamental principles” outlined in the manifesto.
The manifesto calls for the creation of new election administrations with representatives from political parties and “publicly trusted persons.” The current Central Election Commission (CEC) is composed of certified electoral officials, who, by law, should not have any party affiliations.
Opposition politicians, however, have said that the appointment of Levan Tarkhnishvili, who is believed to have close links with the ruling party, as chief of the CEC has once again demonstrated that the authorities are not willing to lessen their grip on the CEC.
The creation of a genuine system of checks and balances comes second in the list of twelve principles. The manifesto says that the creation of “a European-style parliamentary system” would be the most appropriate way to have checks and balances in Georgia.
The ten opposition parties have also pledged to create conditions wherein it would be impossible to exert external pressure on the judiciary, in particular, by the Executive.
The manifesto emphasizes that “the peacefully restoration of the country’s territorial integrity” should be the top foreign policy priority. “Only a strong, democratic Georgia can become a guarantor of the restoration of territorial integrity,” it reads.
The document also points out that the immediate withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflict zones should also be part of this policy.
In respect of foreign policy priorities, the document highlights the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration processes and the immediate withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The opposition parties have outlined the direct election of city mayors and heads of provincial districts as a top priority in respect of the local self-governance system.
One separate section of the manifesto deals with, what it calls, “eradication of political violence.” In this context, the parties pledged to release all, as they put it, “political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.” They have also vowed to investigate high-profile cases, involving deaths of late PM Zurab Zhvania; Sandro Girgvliani and Amiran Robakidze.
The opposition parties have also vowed to protect property rights and “to pay compensation” to those owners whose property, as they put it, has been seized by the authorities in recent years. The manifesto also reads that conditions will be created to secure “a business environment free of racketeering.”
In terms of social policy, they have pledged to provide salaries to public sector workers equal to the subsistence level.
The document also deals with civil integration issues saying that conditions should be created to tackle the problem involving the poor command of the state language by ethnic minority groups in Georgia. In the manifesto the opposition parties also vowed to protect the concordat between the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church, giving the latter privileges over other religious groups.