Protests Surround Discussion of the Constitutional Amendments
The first public discussion of the forthcoming changes to the draft of the country’s supreme law, held by the Committee for Constitutional Amendments in Zugdidi, was accompanied by disruption and argument. Supporters of the Georgian Dream Coalition met with members of the parliamentary minority at the Center for Civic Engagement, accompanied by shouts and whistles. The dispute between the United National Movement (UNM) members and local activists took place outside the building, against the backdrop of protests: several dozen Georgian Dream supporters claimed that the UNM members had no moral right to appear in Zugdidi, while a few of them even attempted to enter the hall with brooms in their hands. They were stopped by the organizers of the meeting and members of the parliamentary majority.
The locals were particularly aggressive towards Nugzar Tsiklauri and Akaki Bobokhidze (MPs from the UNM).
Lack of space was one of the factors preventing a successful discussion: the meeting room was too small to accommodate the citizens who arrived to take part.
After hearing from the authors of the draft amendments, participants did not let Akaki Bobokhidze finish his speech, and a section of the audience became indignant when the MP was recalling the situation unfolding in Samegrelo during the late 1990s.
Several participants expressed divergent opinions regarding the return of the Parliament from Kutaisi to Tbilisi and the restriction of the President’s powers. The meeting was also attended by members of the local district council and administration.
After the meeting was over, a problem emerged when transporting the UNM members, as the protesters were blocking the exit. Only Akaki Bobokhidze managed to reach the car without a police cordon; other UNM members had to resort to the police cordon to reach their destination.
The gathered activists threw eggs and shouted abusive words as the UNM members were leaving.
Zviad Dzidziguri, a majority member, stated that the action was not organized by the Georgian Dream, but that he could understand why citizens were so aggressive. He added, however, that the Commission should immediately start considering the format and organization of these discussions, to ensure more stable conditions for the meetings in the future.
Transparency International Georgia observed the entire process of the first visiting session of the Committee for Constitutional Amendments, as well as the protests.
TI Georgia recommends that the Commission establish more effective mechanisms to ensure that discussion of this most important of amendments is conducted in a constructive and civilized manner.
We also call upon the Georgian Dream coalition to warn its activists not to impede the work of Commission members, in spite of the fact that its activists hold strong views about the UNM members, and listening to divergent opinions seems unacceptable to them. We believe that professional discussion and open expression of the differences of opinion on this matter will make the process more efficient and democratic.