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Minister Scraps Conscription for MoD, Drawing GDDG’s Criticism
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jun.'16 / 17:24

Defense Minister, Tina Khidasheli, has signed a decree annulling recruitment of conscripts by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), drawing criticism from the ruling GDDG party.

PM’s office said that the decision should have been at first discussed at the government and National Security Council sessions. Similar position was also voiced by President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

The move does not mean an outright cancelation of the conscription system – the minister’s decree applies only to MoD.

Bulk of recruitment of conscripts is made by other ministries and state agencies such as the Interior Ministry; the State Security Agency; Special State Protection Service (SSPS); ministry in charge of the penitentiary system; intelligence service.

This system will remain, even through MoD has scrapped it for itself, as long as relevant legal provision remains in the legislation.

“We’ve put a lot of effort to solve the issue through legislation and to completely abolish the conscription. It did not work out, but we’ve found another option. In my capacity of the defense minister, I can take this decision unilaterally and right now, in front of you I am signing a decree, which states that the MoD will no longer recruit conscripts,” Tina Khidasheli, who is from the Republican Party, ruling GDDG party’s coalition partner, told journalists at a news conference on June 27.

“The Georgian Armed Forces do not need a service member brought in on the compulsory basis,” Khidasheli said, adding that the service in the Georgian Armed Forces is “prestigious” and there is a “high demand” for joining the army on the contract basis.

Khidasheli also noted that her successor ministers will have to revoke this decree if he or she decides to reinstate recruitment of conscripts by the MoD.

PM’s office said: “The decision requires to be discussed in the framework of the government session and its approval. The PM also believes that the issue should also be discussed by the National Security Council.”

President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that he agrees with the position of PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

“Such decisions – no matter right or wrong and whether we agree or disagree – should not be taken by a single official; instead it should be discussed by the government session and the National Security Council,” the President told journalists on Monday.

He also said that he was not aware in advance that the Defense Minister was going to take this decision.

Lawmakers from the ruling GDDG party have criticized Khidasheli’s unilateral decision as an attempt to score points for her party. The Georgian Dream ruling coalition announced on March 31 that its members (GDDG; Republican Party; Conservative Party; Industrialists, and National Forum) were parting ways for the upcoming parliamentary elections, meaning that they would no longer run under the joint ticket.
 
GDDG MP Irakli Sesiashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for defense and security, said that although technically the Defense Minister has the right not to recruit conscripts for MoD, Khidasheli’s unilateral decision was undue meddling in policy issue, which falls within the parliament’s competence as conscription is determined by the legislation.

“I have an impression that her announcement serves to narrow party interests, which is part of political PR, especially taking into view the fact that she may resign in two weeks. Her approach that the future defense minister can revoke [the decree if she or he] does not like it is not serious, especially when we have to deal with the issue related to defense sector,” MP Sesiashvili said.

“This is a populist move as it does not solve the problem as conscripts will still be recruited by other ministries,” MP Sergo Ratiani of the opposition UNM party said.

New Political Center-Girchi, whose small group of lawmakers was actively lobbying for legislative amendments to scrap the conscription system, said that the Defense Minister’s decision would apply only to 25% of conscripts as it would not cover other ministries. 

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