Public Defender has joined rights groups and opposition in calling the authorities not to enact a law envisaging blanket suspension of all public servants employed in the local self-governance bodies across the country immediately after the June 15 local elections.
According to the legislative amendment, passed by the Parliament on February 5, all public servants of the local authorities will be suspended after the local elections; they will continue to serve ad interim pending filling of vacant posts through competitions.
Concerns over this law were first raised by UNM opposition party; Gigi Ugulava, who was suspended from Tbilisi mayor’s post by the court, said on February 24 that after the local elections the Georgian Dream coalition wants to “kick out” public servants in municipalities and replace them with its activists. Ugulava said that the intention echoes PM Garibashvili’s address to his party activists in which he said that “not a single person, who has worked tirelessly will be left without attention” after winning the local elections.
A group of civil society organizations said in a joint statement on February 26 that the law is in conflict with the constitution and, if not emended, it will be challenged in the Constitutional Court.
The Georgian Young Lawyers' Association; Transparency International Georgia; International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, and Open Society Georgia Foundation said in their statement that the law is “discouraging” in the light of upcoming local elections and “raises legitimate suspicions about intentions of mobilizing civil servants for party campaigns.”
“Work and behavior of civil servants employed at local self-government bodies should not be connected with the electoral cycle. Subsequently, we believe that the above change can hurt the trust towards the electoral process: enactment of this norm ahead of local elections will create the sense of instability among civil servants; moreover, the likelihood that they will act in favor of the ruling party in the pre-election campaigns in order to preserve their jobs is very high. Concerns arise, at the same time, as to whether the amendment incorporated in the Law on Public Service can overweigh the positive moves proposed through the self-government reform,” reads the statement.
Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, said in his statement on February 28 that blanket suspension of thousands of public servants without giving any justification represents violation of the constitution.
“Question arises what’s the objective and reasonable justification to this blatant and blanket interference” into the rights of public servants of the local self-governing bodies, the Public Defender said. “No explanation has been presented by the Parliament. If the law aims at recruiting more qualified personnel, certification process would have been enough for that purpose,” the Public Defender said.