Shame Movement Activists Send Open Letter to Ambassador Degnan

Anti-occupation Shame Movement, which has been demanding the transfer to the proportional electoral system in Georgia since June 2019, has called on the new United States Ambassador Kelly Degnan, “to persuade the ruling party to adopt a fairer electoral system.”

In an open letter of February 6, the Shame Movement noted that for 93 consecutive days after the so-called “Gavrilov night” in June, the protesters have been demanding resignation of then Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who was instead tapped Prime Minister, the release of the “unjustly detained demonstrators” and the introduction of the fully proportional electoral system, “which would clear path for our country’s democratic development.”

According to the letter, “the fight for the fair electoral system” had started much earlier than the Russian Duma MP Sergei Gavrilov’s visit to Georgia, which triggered wide public outcry.

Georgia’s civil society had been calling for proportional election for decades, but none of previous governments had enough sense of justice to meet the demand, including Georgian Dream itself, which requested proportional electoral system from previous government and promised it to public while being in opposition,” the letter reads.

It then notes that on the fourth day of protest, the country’s “shadow ruler” Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to change the existing electoral system and to introduce the fully proportional system for 2020’s elections. However, the ruling party backtracked on its key promise to the protesters.

When the electoral polls conducted by well-known and respected international organizations revealed that the Georgian Dream faced the threat of losing power in proportional elections, those lawmakers which are especially loyal to Mr. Ivanishvili voted against the bill introduced and supported by their own party,” the letter reads.

According to the Shame Movement, transition to the fully proportional electoral system “will not only improve the political scene and make the Georgian parliament more representative, but it will also motivate civil groups to engage more actively in politics,” as well as “decrease the level of polarization, and enhance the belief that civil society opinion in this country is more important than the personal interest of informal leaders.”

In the today’s letter, the Shame Movement refers to “a new wave of attacks” on civil activists and its members. “Since November, up to 100 peaceful activists have been arrested. In addition to these arrests, the government is putting financial pressure on young protesters, using the Soviet-inherited administrative code,” it said.

The letter also reads that “in addition to illegal arrests and intimidation, the Georgian authorities are waging a dirty information war against their own citizens,” and that the ruling party “is using budgetary resources and undeclared, black money to maintain the army of trolls and disseminate fake news.”

“Georgian civil society needs your support to continue its stride towards the West, towards democracy, freedom and economic growth that cannot be achieved without political stability,” the Shame Movement addressed Ambassador Degnan.

The Georgian Parliament voted down the constitutional amendment envisaging transition from current mixed electoral system to fully proportional one from 2020, instead of 2024. triggering public protests.

Following weeks of protests and rising political tensions in Tbilisi and all across Georgia, the ruling party and opposition have failed to reach a consensus over amending the electoral system.

However, as the Shame Movement noted in its letter to Kelly Degnan, “the failure of these negotiations will lead to further questioning of the legitimacy of the upcoming elections and further polarization.”

For more background, follow our tag on 2020 polls

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