Statement of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy about the Importance of Self-Government Reform in Georgia

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy releases a statement in response to public discussions about the need of local self-government reform and risks associated. 

The discussion was triggered on the one hand by the statement made by the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia on December 4, saying that the reform may lead to break up of the country, which the church refuses to come to terms with and “will do what it can to prevent it”.  

We believe that such statements promote negative public opinion about local self-government reform and public mistrust towards the process. We would like to highlight that strong self-government does not pose any threat to integrity of Georgia but rather, reinforces guarantees for democratic and effective governance as strong self-government essentially means delegating citizens with more opportunities to participate in governance for effective decentralization and the development of self-government, as opposed to breaking up of the country. 

Implementation of the reform is an important challenge for the Georgian democracy and therefore, discrediting the idea may jeopardize strengthening of Georgian democratic institutes and improved citizen participation. 

The example of a number of countries, including Georgia has clearly demonstrated that strong centralized system of governance has failed to ensure public involvement in decision-making or adequate consideration of their needs in decision-making. Strong local self-government first and foremost implies better quality of public service provision. 

Direct election of local self-government and executive officials by their constituents, as introduced by the reform, will reduce the extent of dependence of these authorities to the central government, the ruling political force, and ensure their stable functioning. 
We would like to also note that ISFED has certain critical comments and recommendations about the proposed draft, which we plan to submit to the parliament in the process of review of the draft; however, we believe that the self-government reform in general is a step forward for the democratic development of the country. We welcome active involvement of all stakeholders as well as argumentative discussions about the bill in frames of any format of parliamentary and public discussions.