After 11 years of leadership by President Shevardnadze, the spectacular Rose Revolution brought an end to his era. Opposition leaders refused to accept the results of the flawed November 2003 parliamentary elections and launched massive street protests. The peaceful protests resulted in the forced resignation of President Shevardnadze on 23 November 2003. Georgia political landscape is now dominated by the broad National Movement of Democrats, led by Shevardnadze successor, the pro-Western Mikhail Saakashvili. Georgia example of democracy in action, and the promises of democratic freedoms stand in stark contrast to the authoritarian tendencies that still dominate large parts of the former Soviet Union. Georgia is now seen as a harbor of positive transition, a regional role model and perhaps a forerunner of changes ready to sweep through other troubled nations in Eurasia. In the aftermath of an extraordinary peaceful regime change, Georgia still faces enormous challenges as it attempts to consolidate and institutionalize democracy, freedom, stability and fair and open markets. Without a successful strengthening of democratic institutions there will be no permanent and acceptable solutions to civil strife and border conflicts.
The Parliament of Georgia has 235 members, elected for a four year term, 150 seats by proportional representation and 75 in single-seat constituencies; 10 members represent displaced persons from the separatist region of Abkhazia. Following the latest parliamentary elections last year, the Georgian Parliament is faced with a very weak opposition both in numbers and content. One-hundred fifty-three seats in Parliament belong to the National Movement of Democrats, which is a coalition composed of the National Movement, the United Democrats and the Speake Supporters. Mr. Saakashvili National Movement is the most popular party within the majority coalition and holds most of the seats in parliament. The United Democrats used to be the second largest opposition party in Georgia, led by Zurab Zhvania, who became Georgia Prime Minister after the Rose Revolution. The party gained strength after going into a coalition with Nino Burjanadze. As an individual Ms. Burjanadze has considerable support and is seen as a trusted politician in Georgia. She gained popularity for her fairness in her function as Speaker of the parliament and her critical attitude towards Shevardnadze. Burjanadze served as Interim-President right after the Rose Revolution and is currently the Speaker of Parliament.
The majority of the current MPs are party activists and revolutionaries. It will take a lot of work and effort to transform them into legislators. It is important that they come to understand the responsibilities and obligations that come with being a member of parliament. Many of the new MPs lack the vision and the ability to analyze social and policy issues. Partisanship is present in all parliamentary groups. At present, there is pressure on MPs to support everything that comes from the government, or risk being viewed as traitors to the revolution. Diversity in parliament does not reflect diversity in the society. There is a great need to stimulate healthy controversy and discussion at a time when this is considered unpatriotic, and strengthen issue-based discussions. Parliamentary oversight of the executive is further hindered by the constitutional changes that will take place when 97 out of 102 articles of the Constitution are amended. Although the newly written Rules of Procedure include many provisions on how to increase parliament oversight capacity, their implementation is lagging behind.
As far as budgetary oversight is concerned, too many parliamentarians seem to be too close to the executive, which weakens their oversight capacities. The Georgian government has recently started to operate with result oriented budgets and medium term expenditure frameworks, which make it harder even for trained economists. Most MPs lack knowledge of microeconomics, and those MPs who are economists are political economists. Moreover, lack of infrastructure, lack of knowledge and expertise in dealing with budget and policy analysis are further obstacles. Another important issue is parliamentary oversight of foreign donations/financing. The government should not have a monopoly on this; rather, it should be the responsibility of parliament, given that the money borrowed will have to be paid back by future generations.
Regarding European integration, some of the areas of interest for the committee members would be ensuring legislative compatibility with EU standards, raising public awareness on EU issues, and contributing to the establishment of a European culture. Maintaining contacts with EU /regional counterparts, which cannot be achieved through simply one-off visits/training, is crucial. Although Georgia is a member of the South Caucasus Assembly, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, these are formal memberships. Increasing the knowledge of Georgian law-makers on how the Dutch and other EU parliaments practice economic good governance would be beneficial.