Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, has slammed a group of European Parliament members for “unsubstantiated claims” voiced in their letter to PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and called on them to abstain from signing such statements in order not to feel then “embarrassed” for such action.
23 MEPs, 19 of them from the European People’s Party (EPP) group, sent the letter to PM Bidzina Ivanishvili on March 6. Echoing allegations of President Saakashvili’s UNM party against Georgia’s new government, the letter says that “the aggressive campaign to force opposition MPs to switch side by blackmailing or threatening them or their families simply stands in stark contradiction to European values”; it says that “pressure on judiciary”, “inflammatory rhetoric and use of mobs to quell political opponents as well as frequent use of hate speech towards minorities only makes Georgia drift away not towards its European dream.” The letter calls on the Georgian PM “not to step this way burying the European future for Georgia.”
“Your open letter to President M. Saakashvili shows the situation in Georgia in an utmost worrying terms. If your efforts will result in deepening of the apparent democratic backsliding, Georgia would be compromised as democracy and seized from its European perspective. Then you become a person who closes European doors for Georgia,” MEPs’ letter reads.
In response the Georgian Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili wrote: “Your letter of March 6… in which you claim to be trying to save Georgia’s European choice, actually distances you from Europe as we know it – from Europe, about which we dream and toward which we are making resolute steps.”
“I have asked many of you more than once, and I repeat now: set supreme European standards for us and appraise us against them. We are very much in need of it to free ourselves from post-communism. However, please do not set President Saakashvili and his former regime as a standard as it would be an insult to Europe,” Usupashvili’s letter, dated March 10 and released on Monday, reads.
“It is a different issue if you made your statement without having read the Georgian Prime Minister’s address to the President. If you have, however, where exactly did you detect threats and the use of mob to quell pro-European forces? A call to remove an unprecedented constitutional provision in the democratic world the presidential right to appoint a new government without the parliament’s consent is it an act of threatening or an attempt to harmonize our constitution with European standards? Those who adopted this constitutional provision as early as 2004 and now oppose its abolition - including Mr. Saakashvili - are they pro-European forces or worthy successors to Soviet authoritarianism?”
“Could you cite at least one instance when the Georgian Prime Minister urged anyone toward violence or used hate speech against minorities?” Usupashvili wrote. “Did Saakashvili open wide European doors by victimizing unruly parliamentarians (Gelashvili in 2005; Davitashvili in 2007), while the new government is closing these doors by launching investigations into these cases?”
“If these are your standards of democracy, and if you are discussing a Europe built upon these standards, then we do not know such a Europe as you see it. Your letter once again confirmed that merely residing in Europe does not guarantee commitment to European values. You reside in Europe and yet you distance yourselves from Europe by supporting Saakashvili’s former police regime. This way, you probably will not hurt Europe itself, yet my small country may become yet another victim, falling prey to such Europeans,” Usupashvili said. "Mikheil Saakashvili has already succeeded in blackmailing many both within and without the country, managing to tie their political future fully to his own dubious political future. Beware of him, lest you remain captive to stereotypes."
Meanwhile the Washington-based congressional newspaper, The Hill, ran on March 11 an opinion piece by Usupashvili, who is currently visiting the United States, in which the parliament speaker says that President Saakashvili’s refusal to give up his powers allowing him to dismiss the sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval, is “contributing further to the atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust that still burdens Georgian political life.”
“Unfortunately, there is a problem that is undermining our efforts at further reform. Even though his government was removed from office, Saakashvili himself remains in power until October of this year. Because of constitutional reforms he enacted in 2004, Saakashvili has the power to dismiss the prime minister and his government and arbitrarily appoint a replacement without parliament’s approval and against the will of the people expressed in the recent elections. Georgia is the only democracy in the world where a head of state has this authority. We have proposed a simple constitutional amendment to require parliamentary approval of any new government, but Saakashvili refuses to give up this anti-democratic power,” Usupashvili says.
The Parliament is expected to vote on Georgian Dream proposed constitutional amendments, limiting President’s power to sack the government and appoint new one without legislative body’s approval, later this month.