PM-designate Bidzina Ivanishvili and his cabinet plans to carry out “large-scale reforms in all strategic directions” ranging from constitutional reform to structural changes in the law enforcement agencies, according to incoming government’s program (pdf file in Georgian).
The Parliament is expected to confirm incoming government and its program “for Strong, Democratic, United Georgia” at a session on October 25.
A brief, but very first section of program priorities addresses need for carrying out constitutional reform, saying that “in order to exclude authoritarian rule, at least amending relevant parts of the constitution is required at the initial stage.”
“Most of the [six-party] Georgian Dream coalition members prefer parliamentary system,” the document reads, adding that “final decision” about constitutional arrangement should be a result of “a broad agreement” within the society.
Right now the Georgian Dream falls 15 seats short of required 100 in the Parliament to amend the constitution.
Reforming Law Enforcement Agencies
According to the program, Interior Ministry’s structural reform is planned, which, among others, will also include de-coupling security service from the ministry.
Interior Minister designate, Irakli Garibashvili, says that the most immediate priority will be to “depoliticize” law enforcement agencies and “to distance this system from politics”.
“It’s very easy to do – there will be no political orders anymore, hence the police will be free from any political pressure,” 30-year-old incoming Interior Minister said, adding that the next priority would be to structurally reform the ministry.
Garibashvili, who like other ministerial nominees was heard by parliamentary committees on October 23, said that he would abolish Special Operative Department (SOD) and Constitutional Security Department (CSD), two powerful agencies within the Interior Ministry.
He said that functions of these agencies would be distributed to other, relevant branches of the ministry.
SOD mainly handles with crimes related to weapons and cargo smuggling, organized crime, drug and human trafficking; money laundering and extortion.
Garibashvili said that functions of SOD would go under the Criminal Police, an agency in charge of investigating severe crimes.
CSD is handling crimes related to corruption among officials, as well as addressing threats to constitutional order and of terrorism.
Garibashvili said that CSD’s some of the functions would go under the counter-intelligence unit and in addition a new “strong anti-corruption agency” would be established.
The incoming government’s program says that the Interior Ministry will be made of two major branches: Police Department and Border Guard Police Department. The first one, Police Department, will be made of two agencies: Criminal Police and Patrol Police.
According to the program, the State Security Service, an agency separated from the Interior Ministry, will be established.
The State Security Service, according to the program, will be in charge of intelligence gathering and analysis; it will have no right to pursue criminal charges.
Head of the planned State Security Service should be nominated by the President and approved on the post by the parliament.
Interior Minister-designate, Irakli Garibashvili, said that a Bureau for Reforms and Development would be established, which would work on “a long-term development strategy.”
Ivanishvili’s incoming government plans to maintain the prosecutor’s office within the Justice Ministry, but to make the chief prosecutor independent from Justice Minister and increase Parliament’s role in respect of the prosecutor’s office.
Currently the President appoints/dismisses chief prosecutor upon the nomination/initiative of the Justice Minister.
The incoming government plans to introduce a new rule according to which chief prosecutor will be appointed by the President with an approval from the Parliament.
According to the program, dismissal of chief prosecutor will only be possible either through impeachment procedures or through President’s decision, which will require approval of the Parliament.
Georgian Dream coalition has named Archil Kbilashvili, a defense lawyer with 18 years of experience and a member of Ivanishvili’s party, as chief prosecutor. He has said that concluding investigation into the circumstances of death of PM Zurab Zhvania would be one of his immediate priorities.
In respect of criminal justice system, the program envisages encouraging use of concurrent sentencing instead of consecutive one, although this latter will not be scrapped.
It also envisages reforming of a plea bargaining system, which although will be maintained, but changed in a way “to make it fairer”. Plea bargain was applied in 88% of criminal cases in the first nine months of 2012, according to the Georgian Supreme Court. In a report last year Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner said the way how plea bargain was practiced in Georgia, combined with some other factors, was “leading to a distortion of justice.”
On defense, the program emphasizes on the need of increasing the Defense Ministry’s transparency and accountability. It says that submitting reports, including on defense spending, to the Parliament on the regular basis will become a compulsory for the ministry. It also envisages introduction of a military ombudsman.
It says that the incoming government will “completely reform” system of conscription with the view of transforming it into reserve system. The program also says that “attention will be paid to the issue of gender balance and providing equal opportunities in the army.”
On local self-governance, the incoming government says in its program that it would make city mayors, as well as heads of municipalities directly elected posts (currently only Tbilisi mayor is directly elected).
On taxes, the program says that the goal will be to create “a stable tax environment, that will not allow frequent changes in the tax legislation”; it vows to remove 20% personal income tax for those whose income amounts to minimum subsistence level; to review list of products to which excise tax is currently applied; to clarify ambiguous provisions in the tax code; to reduce fines; to reduce “state’s dominant role” in adjudication of tax disputes.
On conflict resolution issues, the program makes emphasis on public diplomacy, economic and joint business projects and on encouraging people-to-people contacts across “the dividing lines.”
“Building democratic institutions and resolving social-economic problems [in Georgia] will be decisive for resolution of conflicts. Success of the state policy in these directions should convince societies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region in advantage of living in united state,” the program reads.
According to the document, the incoming government plans to reform Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, as well as Tbilisi-based provisional administration of South Ossetia. It plans to transfer from central government to these structures functions of handling issues related to internally displaced persons, as well as to form through elections “internally displaced persons’ representative body”.
On pensions, the program envisages introduction of a mandatory pension insurance system; amount of pension will depend on insurance period and the amount of contributions made by an individual person. But before the system goes into full effect, the incoming government vows to increase monthly social pension to the minimum subsistence level.