The Presentation of second report of the Monitoring of Post-Election Processes in Local Self-Governments after 2012 Parliamentary Elections
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presents the second report of monitoring the post-election processes, which covers staff changes in self- governments, protest rallies and legal proceedings instituted against self-government officials.
Following the October 1, 2012 elections, total of 46 Gamgebelis throughout Georgia have resign ed, including 44 based on a letter of resignation for personal reasons and 2 based on respective Sakrebulo decisions. Within the same period of time, total of 24 Sakrebulo Chairperson s have resigned, including 20 based on their own decisions and four based on respective Sakrebulo decisions.
Changes in local self-governments generally occurred amid protest rallies by citizens. Rally participants – mostly local supporters and activists of the Georgian Dream, staged protests demanding resignation of local self-government officials and their replacement with candidates that they favored. From October 1 to present similar protest rallies have been staged in 28 municipalities, including 24 that turned illegal by expression of physical violence, invasion of buildings, disruption of meetings and blocking offices of Gamgeoba. Frequently, majoritarian MPs openly interfered with changes in staff in local self- governments.
Newly appointed officials initiated changes in staff in offices of Gamgeoba and Sakrebulo. Mass changes occurred in 21 municipalities, often preceded by holding a meeting in Gamgeoba or summoning of Trustees by Gamgebeli. Notably, most employees dismissed from work are reluctant to publicly discuss reasons for the dismissal or say that it had to do with their personal reasons, whereas in private conversations they confirm that they had been forced into leaving work. In Gamgeobas they maintain that employees willingly submit letters of resignation and often indicate that Gamgeoba plans to announce a competition for recruitment of employees and hence the dismissals.
Notably, in addition to municipal agencies changes in staff have also been observed in kindergartens and offices of Governors, as well as in Adjara A/R authorities.
During the reporting period investigating authorities looked into the activities of local self-governments. There have been several criminal proceedings instituted and officials questioned. Financial police inspected several municipalities. The report focuses on 13 cases where law enforcement authorities looked into the work of municipal officials and public servants. Probes were mostly launched into alleged abuse of budget resources and official power.
The oppositional United National Movement party was actively trying to thwart these changes in self-governments by having MPs and Governors personally interfere. They accused the authorities of encouraging these processes and exerting illegal pressure on their representatives.
International organizations have reacted with criticism to the developments. NATO and PACE have issued statements condemning acts of illegal pressure against self-governments and calling the authorities to take more efficient steps.
ISFED believes that expectation of citizens that following the change in the central authorities it is only natural for changes to also occur in municipal governments stems from their wrongful perception of functions and the essence of local self-government, frequently caused by inappropriate practices in the past and the fact that self-government officials and public servants often committed illegal actions against citizens, including dismissals from work, making threats and exerting pressure, abusing government resources.
Nevertheless, we believe that similar precedents do not justify the acts of pressure and violence reported in a number of municipalities. Rather, the process of transfer of power at the municipal level must abide by procedures prescribed by law and the Georgian authorities must ensure that local self-governments function in a pressure-free environment.
We believe that the existing situation once more illustrates the necessity of self- government reform in the nearest future, to ensure true independence of municipal authorities and avoid interference in issues that fall under their purview.
We are aware that the process of elaborating a new concept of self-government has already been launched in coordination with the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure and it is set to be realized prior to the 2014 municipal elections. Regrettably, details about ongoing or future works have not yet been made public, and participation of all civil society stakeholders has not been ensured. It is important for the reform to be conducted in a transparent manner and for all stakeholders be provided with an opportunity for participation in a timely manner.