New parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili (right) and incoming PM Bidzina Ivanishvili in newly built Parliament building in Kutaisi, October 21. Photo: Ivanishvili’s press office.
Davit Usupashvili, chairman of Republican Party and one of the leaders of Georgian Dream coalition, was elected as the chairman of new Parliament at its inaugural session on October 21.
The new Parliament in which Georgian Dream has 85 lawmakers and United National Movement (UNM) – 65 MPs, elected Usupashvili as new parliamentary chairman with 88 votes to 0.
Before voting procedures started, parliamentary minority leader, Davit Bakradze, who was speaker in the previous Parliament, said that UNM lawmakers would not take part in voting.
Currently Parliamentary Chairman is the highest ranking post after the presidency in Georgia.
Usupashvili told lawmakers that the new Parliament should put an end to a practice of legislative body being “submissive” to government.
“Healthy competition and polemic with government – that’s not only up to the parliamentary minority, but up to the parliamentary majority as well,” he said.
Usupashvili said that the new Parliament should help eradicate, what he called, “shadow governance”.
“UNM achieved successes in number of directions and one of them was curbing shadow economy, but shadow governance was established when decisions were made through bypassing laws and democratic procedures,” he said.
Usupashvili expressed hope that the foreign policy would be an issue on which the Georgian Dream and UNM would find more in common. “Euro-Atlantic integration and overcoming threats posed by the occupying force… require serious work,” he said.
He thanked Georgia’s western partners for their “diligent, well-thought work” in run-up to the October 1 parliamentary elections and said that after the Georgian people itself, it was the international community which played a huge role in peaceful transfer of power based on election results.
“[In the run up to elections] emotions were running high and there was a high probability of making mistakes by the both sides. Our friends from the U.S., Europe and others did their best in confirming their friendship to the Georgian people and not to any specific political leader… With their timely advices, monitoring it was made possible to do what we managed to do [peaceful transfer of power after the elections],” Usupashvili said.
He, however, also said that what was happening before the October 1 parliamentary elections should not be forgotten.
“Full-scale violence against the opposition, media and voters was underway,” he said.
He said that truth should be established and that should happen not because “to fill the prisons”, but in order not to make the same mistakes in the future.
“For us zero tolerance means not sending everyone to jail, but establishing the truth,” he said. “Numerous violent crimes have been committed in some cases with orders from high-ranking officials.”
“Such cases should be investigated, but in no way we should go beyond limits,” he said, adding that while seeking for justice this process should not be used as a pretext for personal revenge.
For that reason, he said, the process should be carried out in close scrutiny from media and civil society organizations.
“Those times when winners had the right to do everything and losers were left to their fate should now be over,” Usupashvili said.
The Georgian Dream plans to establish an ad hoc parliamentary commission to look into some of the high-profile cases that may include death of PM Zurab Zhvania in 2005 (Gogla Zhvania, brother of the late PM, became a lawmaker under the Georgian Dream’s party-list) and murder of Sandro Girgvliani.
MP Tina Khidasheli of the Georgian Dream, who is a Republican Party member and a wife of Davit Usupashvili, is slated to chair this commission.
He also said that change of constitution and creating “firm constitutional system” wherein it would become difficult to amend constitution and tailor it to specific political goals would be one of the priorities of the new Parliament.