“Georgia’s democratic development continued its recent positive trajectory, although progress stalled or even regressed along certain lines,” the Nations in Transit 2017 Georgia country report said.
The report released by the U.S.-based rights watchdog Freedom House, evaluates progress and setbacks for democratization in Georgia and covers developments in 2016. The organization released the Nations in Transit democracy scores for 29 former communist European and Eurasian countries in early April, but the narrative country reports had been pending publication until now.
The Nations in Transit 2017 Georgia country report assesses the country’s democratic performance on separate categories, involving electoral process; civil society; independent media; national and local governance; judiciary and corruption.
The report singles out the October parliamentary election as the most “the most significant political event of the year.”
Despite the fact that domestic and international organizations “broadly assessed” the October election as “well administered and a generally accurate representation of voters’ preferences,” there were “some administrative irregularities, voter intimidation, and violent incidents pre-election and on election day, most notably the bombing of the car of a senior UNM official only two days before the election,” the report noted.
The document, however, added that the incidents “did not appear to have a direct effect on the election’s integrity.” “Georgian Dream - running as a party and without the coalition partners with which it had won in 2012 and governed in parliament - won 114 out of 150 seats, giving it a “super-majority” with which it has the ability to pass constitutional amendments at will.”
The report named the independence of Georgian media and judiciary as the two areas “of greatest concern for Georgia’s democratic consolidation in 2016.”
“While the Georgian media landscape is broadly pluralistic and transparent, ongoing legal issues surrounding ownership of the most watched TV channel in the country, the pro-UNM Rustavi 2, have cast the integrity of the entire sector into doubt,” the report said, referring to the the ongoing ownership dispute over Rustavi 2.
“Similarly, guilty verdicts in the so-called “cable case” for seven defendants charged in 2014 on corruption charges were strongly criticized by independent judicial observers as lacking in any reasonable legal basis,” the document also said. “Both cases raise serious questions over the continued independence of the judiciary and media sector, which have otherwise seen some genuine improvements in recent years.”
According to Freedom House, the author of the country report for Georgia is Michael Hikari Cecire, Fellow at the New America and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.