Eka Beridze interviews Pavle Kublashvili about election reform

Uploaded by tigeorgia on 26.04.2011

Good evening. You are watching “Straight Talk” with Eka Beridze. The final report from the American State Department states:
“We think that a stronger Georgian democracy requires maximum competition during the 2012 Parliamentary and 2013 Presidential elections.”
According to the European Council Parliamentary Assembly: “the next parliamentary elections will show the true level of democracy in Georgia.”
The international evaluations published in the last few days all support electoral changes.
Pavle Kublashvili supports the interest International community has shown towards the election process,
And hopes that the parties will manage to reach a consensus in order to improve the electoral environment.
Will the election process continue? And why does Georgian democracy need testing?
We will discuss these questions with Pavle Kublashvili today.
You are watching “Straight Talk”, and our guest is Pavle Kublashvili. -Hello Mr. Pavle.
-Good evening to you and your viewers.
First, I would like to ask you about the negotiations on election environment.
The opposition had several propositions but the government refused to accept them.
However, a few days ago you said you hope the negotiations will continue.
What format should the negotiations follow?
The fact that the negotiations failed was a result of actions made by opposition parties.
You saw that in the decisive moment, when we were going to converge on our positions, they decided to leave the negotiations’ table.
Because of this, I will not be able to tell you what their plans are and how they’re going to convince the population or other political parties in their position.
What do you mean exactly by saying that the opposition left negotiations?
There was one occasion when the opposition did not show up to the meeting in the Parliament.
But they did make specific proposals about the election system – German election system - afterwards.
What I mean in particular is what you, me and the whole population witnessed when we saw empty seats in the Parliament.
Levan Vepkhvadze was present though.
Levan Vepkhvadze was going to facilitate the discussion as a representative of the Christian Democratic Party and did not represent the opposition.
I am talking about 7 other opposition parties that did not show up.
The important thing is that they simply said they do not want to participate in this process any longer.
Who made the announcement that “we don’t want to participate”?
How else are you supposed to understand their actions?
Let’s decide first who left the negotiations.
-Ok, we can discuss each individual separately if you like. -Were any announcements made?
-This was their announcement: “we will not continue negotiations until the government… -Who said that they would not continue? Who in particular?
All 8 of them. They said that they would not continue negotiations until the government changes its position.
What do you think this means? This means that we are immediately supposed to say that districts should not have majoritary deputies or representatives in the Parliament, and agree to their proposals.
Ok let’s follow the chain of events.
After this they made another proposition regarding the percentage of political party representation in the Parliament, which was based on the German model and gave privilege to the majoritaries.
I think this is deluding the population because the majoritaries would be limited even in that scenario.
I would like to say one thing: The main point of negotiations is the voicing and exchange of propositions as well as convergence of certain positions.
The important thing is for us to have convergence on positions during dialogue or negotiations.
But this convergence cannot happen when someone decides to leave the negotiations table and present their position from somewhere else.
Present their positions from where Mr. Pavle?
Our goal, which we also voiced during the negotiations, is for each and every district to have a representative regardless of the size of its population.
We can not leave Kazbegi, Oni, Ambrolauri, Aspindza and many other districts without a representative.
The statement, announced by the opposition representatives as well as through some TV channels, saying that they stand for more representation is a lie.
This is because they also tell us that 4 districts can have 3 majoritaries. How can there be more representation if 4 districts can have 3 majoritaries instead of 4. It’s simple arithmetic.
Let’s not argue about the details of that statement.
After the day when the opposition did not show up to the negotiations in the Parliament, did their subsequent propositions hint at a desire to continue negotiations?
-I did not see any desire for continuation. -Why did they continue proposing then?
I don’t know. They want to present themselves to international organizations or other individuals as having diverging positions.
Why did you not say that their propositions were unacceptable during the negotiations?
When was this supposed to happen? Their position is the following:
We will leave this negotiations table, discuss the issue somewhere else, and wait for the government to make concessions.
For example, make it so that some districts do not have a majoritary deputy, which is explained by saying that the majoritaries are bad people and the parties will choose good ones.
In reality, these people fight against each district having a representative and against every citizen, regardless of party membership, being able to participate in elections.
They want to be able to decide who will represent the population in the Parliament. This will not happen.
But the election system is only one part of the negotiations. Aren’t there more issues to be negotiated?
One might get an impression that you are using this topic to accuse the opposition in not wanting to negotiate.
Did you ask them to talk about other issues?
We are talking about people leaving negotiations. How can I accuse anyone? It is their decision.
Did you invite them to negotiate after that?
They announced that “we will not continue negotiations until the government changes its position.”
Naturally, we cannot consent to the condition of making majoritaries not be chosen by districts.
So you are saying that the opposition said that they would not continue negotiations unless you do not come up with a position regarding majoritaries.
-Who made this announcement? -Have you not heard it yourself? Have you not read…
No I have not. I often have contact with them in my show and no one has said anything like it.
I do not know what they said. I heard their announcement and saw their action.
Their announcement was that “we think the proposals made by the government are not serious, and we will not continue negotiations until they change their position.”
And second, their action, when they did not show up to the negotiations.
These two together mean that they do not have a desire to negotiate. So, it is not serious to say that I am accusing someone.
I am simply trying to understand who actually left the negotiations.
Did the proposals made by the opposition, after not showing up to the negotiations, suggest that they wanted to negotiated?
Making proposals to themselves somewhere was an attempt to come up with an excuse for their mistake. However, this is not too important for us.
The important things for us were and still are: every district having its own representative, together with every party having a proportional representation in the Parliament,
and an independent citizen being able to participate in elections regardless of party membership.
This is the position we had and the one we presented.
-Doesn’t the process of negotiations entail both parties making concessions? -I completely agree.
Which part of the two main issues - electoral system and biometric data - was the government planning to make concessions on?
We can not start talking about concessions here, because this is a topic of political discussion.
Where you planning to make any concessions?
The principle mistake here is to ask: let’s see how much they’ll concede to. This will not be a political process.
Is the government supposed to concede to not having majoriaties?
Does the fact that the government takes part in the negotiations about election code mean that the government acknowledges that the code needs to change?
No, the government acknowledges that there are issues that possibly need more clarification.
But it is wrong to say that the existence of negotiations means we do not have an election code.
We’re talking about whether it needs change and correction.
There’s a big difference between needing change and correction, and needing clarification.
Both evaluations you mentioned in the beginning – State Department and European Council - say that there have been important steps made forward in the election process.
Both evaluations are also very positive towards the 2010 elections.
So it is wrong to say that the election code is bad and we need to correct it now using dialogue.
What was your goal when entering the negotiations? What were you planning to change?
Our goal was reaching maximum consensus on election code and election environment.
-What exactly were you planning to change in the election code? -It is not the case that we entered negotiations in order to concede something.
-Not conceding but changing something Mr. Pavle. -Clarification, maybe.
Ok, what were you planning to clarify?
Let’s look at it this way: It is also possible that we would manage to convince the opposition that our position was right and theirs wrong.
-Position regarding what? -Any topic related to elections.
For example, what do you think about the election system? What is to be clarified? – Since you prefer using this word.
What should the proportions be when there is a big difference between the number of voters.
We presented our proposal on this and said – let’s add another mandate to districts with more than 100,000 voters, in this way leveling out a mandate’s value.
What about voter lists?
In 2010, political parties were financed and given an opportunity to check voter lists, after which there were no significant problems reported.
Moreover, no evaluation of 2010 elections had any negative remarks about voter lists.
So, there is no need to say that we need to do something special to improve voter lists. 0:13:56.000,0:14:02.000 I am simply interested in the government’s objective in this negotiations. What were you planning to clarify?
Neither we nor other parties were planning to clarify any specific norm.
Our objective was for the parties to reach consensus on election environment, election code, and rules of election game.
This, however, will not happen at the expense of a base principle; at the expense of someone listing districts that will not have representatives.
For example, Kutaisi should have a majoritary, but Zestaponi should not. Or Zugdidi should have one, and Tsalenjikha should not. This is not how the issue should be put.
-That’s too specific. -You asked me to be specific.
I asked you about what specifically you were going to change or clarify.
This is a process, and not something to be done by only one side. This is a process where politicians sit down and exchange their positions.
-But when one side of the negotiations suddenly runs away somewhere… -So you are saying that they ran away?
Would you give this any other evaluation? Did you see their announcements?
I am a journalist and am not going to make evaluations. I am interested in your evaluation.
How can you evaluate an individual’s action, when after hearing your position he says he won’t continue negotiations until you change your position? Isn’t this running away?
A few international reports were published during the last week, all of which support the change of the election system.
We’ll continue talking about this after a short break.
You are watching “Straight Talk” with our guest, Pavle Kublashvili.
The international reports published last week all point out the necessity of change of the election system.
According to the European Council Parliamentary Assembly:
“The upcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections will show the true level of democracy in Georgia, which is why a new election code needs to be adopted.”
And the American State Department report states that:
“A stronger Georgian democracy requires maximum competition during the 2012 Parliamentary and 2013 Presidential elections.”
According to the announcement made by the EU ambassador:
“The European Union supports the dialogue between the Georgian Government and opposition on election code.”
“The EU will continue to closely observe negotiations and any other process related to the election reform.”
Do these statements suggest that the international community is seriously interested in the change – and not just clarification - of election environment in Georgia?
These statements are important because elections - both future and past – are always going to be important to the international community…
…for evaluating the level of democracy as well as the level of development of the country.
Did the international community make similar announcements before previous elections?
Yes, same was said before Presidential and Parliemanetary elections of 2008, and 2010 elections.
The reports you read from also talk about the 2010 self-government and mayor’s elections.
You should see the evaluations given to the self-government elections by the State Department report, European Council resolution, and the EU.
All three of the reports say that the 2010 elections were a very important step forward and an example of fair and democratic elections.
How can you explain the fact that the European Council Parliamentary Assembly points out the need for the adoption of a new election code. 0:18:34.000,0:18:40.000 They are talking about a whole new election code, rather than just clarification.
It is important for us for this process not to end somewhere.
The process of election evaluation as well as work on making the environment more transparent should always continue.
Changes like these keep being added to the election code since 2004.
And the recommendations given by different international organizations are always subjects of discussion. We always try to move forward.
So, you agree that a change –and not just clarification – is needed?
-You made a huge distinction between change and clarification. -No, actually you made that distinction.
The reason why those words were used in the reports was because of a statement made by Davit Bakradze in June last year saying that we would adopt a new election code.
I think this process will always continue in the future. Democracy test never ends.
The main principles of democracy are electability and periodic elections.
Because of this it is important for each subsequent elections to be better. Changes for this are happening and will happen in the future.
I am sure that the following elections will be evaluated even more positively, but I would have liked you to also present the 2010 evaluations.
I am interested in your opinion about the critique, rather than the praise.
The population should not get the feeling that the resolution only has negative evaluations.
I do not think it does because the resolution and other reports have been published in many places.
In this case it is interesting to see what the government has to say about the critique.
I want to stress that the 2010 self-government and mayor elections were evaluated as a step forward and an example of democratic elections by both State Department and European Council.
After the US State Department report was published Nino Kalandadze, assistant of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the Georgian government did not agree with parts of the report.
Which part exactly do you not agree with?
Before evaluating the State Department report we need to look at what it means and how it is constructed.
The goal of this report, done in many other countries, including US itself in the last few years, is to reflect on the issues under discussion in that society.
The State Department report keeps using phrases like: According to specific political parties…
According to specific NGOs… There are specific accusations…
These are not facts that the state department expresses its opinions on. These are simply the issues under discussion in this country.
US Ambassador Mr. Bass, in his interview with the magazine Tabula, stated:
“The report is written about almost every country and represents our evaluation of how much they satisfy the objective international standards regarding protection of basic human rights.”
I read that interview too and it is a pity you did not read what follows.
I will. “During the preparation of the report, we consider the dialogues we have with people both in and outside of the government…
-You should read what’s written even further down. -That I have not brought with me.
That is unfortunate. You did not bring the part which would have been interesting for the viewers.
But the critical parts of the report do not say “it is not our opinion.”
Do you think the US State Department mechanically includes opinions of other people in its report regardless of whether they agree or not.
The Interview says that the report presents opinions of different political parties and NGOs.
It also says that there is general progress of democracy in the country,…
…that there is a continuous cooperation between the State Department and the Georgian Government.
Does the report not try to converge the government and opposition opinions?
The report simply presents all opinions rather than converging them.
How are the respondents chosen then? Anyone can say something absurd.
The report includes opinions of those NGOs and political parties that have connection with the population and the embassy.
So the US Department trusts these organizations, doesn’t it?
It is not about trust or distrust. They pick those issues that they consider to be important.
-In all of these cases though, they stress that it is not their position. -No, they stress that it actually is there position.
This is exactly what the ambassador talks about in that interview.
The ambassador confirms once again that democracy is developing, that there is a continuous cooperation between the State Department and the Georgian Government.
So it is wrong and absurd to present this whole thing as if something has deteriorated, which is also within the political interests of some people.
Let’s look at Mr. Bass’s evaluations from his TV announcement, translated by the embassy itself.
This is the evaluation made by Mr. Bass himself, where he does not mention any organization having reported anything.
That is because the State Department Report says that.
No, I’m talking about the announcement made by Mr. Bass. His personal opinion.
It is about selective use of law. I’d like to analyze this critique together with you.
According to Bass: “Many of the investigation cases dealing with presumably unlawful or illegal activities started by the Government representatives remain unfinished by the end of the year.”
“Conversely, cases of the same nature against government opponents were finished fast and transferred to the court.”
Before discussing that issue, the State Department report mentions that the following is a result of information provided by specific political parties and NGOs.
What does it mean, when the ambassador repeats this?
The only thing it means is that the ambassador represents the State Department report.
Does he also agree with the position he announced? How does he choose what to say on TV?
I can not tell you how he makes his choices. So he can be announcing something without agreeing with it?
Let me finish my sentence please.
The same report talks about the information provided by political parties about the existence of political prisoners.
Would you agree that the report cites the source of this information?
Instead of “political prisoners” the report talks about individuals arrested on political grounds.
Now let’s look at how the European Council resolution talks about the same topic, and how this issue was discussed by the council.
When the Russian side tried to undermine Georgia by saying that there are political prisoners here,…
…the person monitoring the situation on the ground said that there is not a single political prisoner in Georgia according to all European criteria regarding this issue.
So, when someone says that my brother, my son or some friend is a political prisoner it does not mean that there actually…
-Do they blindly trust these people? -No, but they say that there are certain accusations.
A high level of corruption is another problem mentioned both by the report and Mr. Bass.
They say that certain NGOs and political parties report the existence of corruption, but no specific examples are mentioned, are they?
-Do you not agree that there is corruption? -Of course I do not.
-None at all? -None at all.
This is a topic our political opponents chose as their main subject.
In reality though, the State Department report and the European Council resolution stress that Georgia has taken unprecedented steps towards fighting corruption,…
…that investigation of corruption cases is successful, and that the government has the ability to punish its own representatives involved in corrupt activities.
-So you do not agree with the critical evaluations. -These are not critical evaluations but opinions of certain NGOs.
Ok, but the ambassador - in almost all of his announcements - stresses the lack of investigative journalism in Georgia.
Why is more active investigative journalism needed? To investigate what?
Are you trying to connect this with the topic of corruption?
I do not think there’s a connection between these.
-The State Department report also talks about media problems, like Channel 2… -I was asking about investigative journalism.
What do you think is the motivation behind the ambassador stressing this issue and providing funds for these kind of projects.
This could be because of lack of qualification of people involved in such activities, and you know such activities are carried out.
Why is it important for those people to have higher qualification?
I generally think it is important to make progress in journalism as well as in any other direction including politics and civil society.
We should all develop together for a more democratic Georgia.
-Thank you. -Thank you.
Our guest was Pavle Kublashvili. Good night.