“Partially Free Country" – What Does the ‘Freedom House’ Report Say About Georgia?
Freedom House published 2019 research indicating the level of democracy in countries around the world. According to the report, Georgia is yet again among the ‘partially free’ countries.
The criteria for summarizing the democracy and freedom levels of different countries are: freedom, political rights, and civil society.
The main message of the report goes as follows: “The progress Georgia reached throughout the last couple of years is now going through a period of stagnation. Oligarchs enormously influence political life, whereby the rule of law is still under political pressure”.
The 2018 Presidential Elections
It is stated in the report that the election process in Georgia maintained a more or less quiet atmosphere but the ruling party was financially supporting the independent candidate for president, Salome Zourabishvili. There were instances of buying out the votes that took place, also initiated by the ruling party. At the same time, weeks before the second tour of the elections the charity foundation of Bidzina Ivanishvili presented a program annulling loans for 600,000 debtors, which is equivalent to every sixth voting citizen of Georgia.
As the report states, there is still a non-formal governing system in the country when it comes to Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The Freedom House reports that simultaneously Bidzina Ivanishvili’s former colleagues are part of both the government and the party representatives which once again proves his leadership is present there. The de-facto ruling of Ivanishvili was also apparent in June 2018, when the former Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated it as the reasoning behind his resignation over a disagreement with Ivanishvili. The co-investing foundation (GCF) is also under Ivanishvili’s ownership. The foundation at the moment is conducting a number of projects in the country. Part of these projects have been met with protest by members of civil society. However, in these cases also the officials were personally supporting projects of the foundation.
The report covers the events surrounding the TV station Rustavi 2 and emphasizes the fact that the Non-Government Organizations have expressed their concern about the court decision regarding the owners of Rustavi 2.
In regard to the national television station, the report says that in the last couple of years a number of new employees of the station were in some ways connected to Ivanishvili and his companies. Simultaneously, the Audit Service exposed a number of occasions when the national television station spent money inappropriately and the Non-Governmental sector has indicated that the TV station has become rather pro-governmental.
The Rule of Law
In spite of the court reforms in Georgia, those in the executive power have yet to get involved in decision-making processes. The court is characterized by corruption and a lack of transparency and professionalism. The defense of property rights in the country is still an active issue.
Despite the fact that the country has progressed in fighting corruption, elite corruption still remains a problem. Within the government, the practice of nepotism is still quite frequent.