*** This post is for people interested in the politics in Georgia. If your eyes glaze over about politics in America, you might want to skip this post. Sincerely, Management***
Georgians say the election coming up on Monday, October 1st, is the most important election thus far in Georgia’s short democratic history. There is a possibility for a major shift in political parties. The elections here are on par with the shenanigans back in America; tons of advertisements, negative campaigning, etc. Although there are three viable parties, the top two are the United National Movement Party and the Georgian Dream Coalition. The Leader of the Georgian Coalition has a very interesting past, although somewhat dubious motives.
Main parties in the Georgian Parliamentary Election in Georgia and where they stand on particular issues:
- United National Movement (UNM) – Led by Mikheil Saakashvili. This party is currently in Power.
- Georgian Dream Coalition GDC– (The Georgian Dream Coalition consists of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, the Republican Party, National Forum, the Conservative Party and Industry Will Save Georgia and the Georgian Dream political party.) – Led by Bidzina Ivanishvili
- Christian Democratic Movement (CDM) – Led by Giorgi Targamadze
Top Issues in Georgia and where the parties stand (taken from party platforms):
UNM– Latest constitutional changes have led to improved structure of government and balance of power. Amendments created mixed system of governance with strong parliament and a government directly accountable to it.
GDC– Latest amendments to the constitutions violate the principle of distribution of powers. Georgian Dream program foresees: *reaching wide public agreement Georgia’s constitutional order and system of governance; * defining a system for local self- governance; and * changing the procedures to amend the constitution to promote the stability of the constitution.
CDM- Supports a balanced constitutional system with a strong parliament and a president with strong arbitration powers. Supported recent constitutional amendments but suggests modification of the current model. They also supports a constitutional model where the president is elected by the parliament in order to prevent unstable political situations due to frequent elections.
UNM– 4 Billion fund for education for 2012-16, including: * Renovation of public schools; * 150 new schools;
* New technological university in Batumi; * 3 new state professional colleges; * summer employment programs for students; * increase in grants and scholarships; * increase in teachers’ salaries.
GDC– Main priority is to ensure equal access to education and professional training. Priorities of the Georgian Dream program include: * de-politicization and effective management of the education sector, including strengthening self-governance of educational institutions and introducing annual monitoring; * increasing the share of education in the state budget, transparent rules for basic financing of access to education (instead of voucher system), increase in teachers’ salaries; * adopting standards for access to education in villages, towns and cities and for provision of social assistance to enhance affordability of education; * evaluation to approximate educational standards to the international level; measurable indicators for authorization/ accreditation; revision of national curriculum; * abolishment of teaching foreign language and computer skills from grade 1 and of computerized teaching; * increasing scientific potential of higher education through effective support mechanisms.
CDM regards the social aspects of education policy and access to education as a priority area. Policy propositions include: * distribution of school books to all families who do not pay declared property tax; * increase of voucher funding for schools and increase in teachers’ salaries; * establishment of at least one school in every village; * support to professional development of teachers and improvement of teacher training; * reimbursement of tuition fees to students with academic success (in part) and students from vulnerable families (in full); * responsibility for pre-school education will be returned to the Ministry of Education and official recognition of pre-school teachers; * increased funding for vocational schools.
Social Security and Health Care:
UNM– Basic health insurance packages for all citizens; special insurance coverage for socially vulnerable persons and children up to 5 years of age. Pensions will be increased. Each family will receive a GEL 1,000 voucher to cover expenses for utilities, education and health expenditures.
GDC– The main policy goal is to offer universal basic health insurance to all citizens. The basic package will include dispensary services, national screening and vaccination programs; medical emergency services; hospital services including cardiovascular surgery; prenatal care and childbirth; diagnostics and fertility treatment; treatment of oncological diseases; emergency dental care; pharmaceuticals. Propositions include:
* Continuing and increasing financing for specialized health care programs (e.g. diabetes, psychological health, safe blood, HIV/AIDS, drug addition programs, palliative care etc.) Other policies to improve social security are proposed, including: * establishment of a cumulative pensions system based on mandatory contributions, with state and private pension pillars;
* Legal provisions to ensure that monthly pensions are at least equal to the minimum levels of subsistence; * increase of social benefits and coverage of social assistance for vulnerable persons; introduction of a unified social security system;
* Social service provision through specialized organizations for orphans and vulnerable children, with financing and management delegated to regional and municipal self-government bodies.
CDM– An accessible health care system with acceptable conditions for patients, medical personnel, insurance and pharmaceutical companies is the overall policy goal of CDM. The party proposed to establish an optimized and transparent system of medical care and management that will make rational use of financial resources, technical capacity and professional staff. CDM proposes to provide special subsidies to vulnerable population groups (children, pensioners, persons with disabilities, veterans, students, large families, IDPs, people living in high mountain areas). A universal package of medical services will be delivered to the entire population through state funding, which will be complemented through private health insurance package (state will determine the cost of the package). For vulnerable groups, costs for the additional package will be covered by the state. Universal health insurance will cover:
* Public health-care programs (e.g. vaccination, screening programs); * primary health-care services (outpatient services and family doctors);
* Accident and emergency care (including ambulance service); * mental health program, treatment of acute infectious diseases, tuberculosis treatment, HID/AIDS treatment, hepatitis treatment and prevention, cancer treatment, cardiac treatment, dialysis programs;
* Pre-natal and pediatric care; * palliative and hospice care; * supply of specific medicines. apart from health care, other social policy propositions include:
* Pension increase (up to GEL 240 by 2016); * introducing a non-taxable minimum level of income adjusted to subsistence minimums; paying salary arrears for civil servants for the period 1998-2004.
UNM– The main foreign policy priority is NATO integration and close interaction with EU. UNM supports active cooperation with EU and other regional integration platforms in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions. Regional cooperation should be strengthened especially with neighboring countries. Georgia’s main strategic partner are the USA; UNM supports deepening political and economic cooperation with the U.S. Georgia also maintains a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan through joint energy, transportation and communication projects and seeks the further deepening of close political, economic, trade, energy relations with Turkey. Cooperation with Ukraine and Armenia are strategic interests of Georgia. UNM also supports links with North Caucasian peoples in neighboring regions of the RF.
GDC– The main foreign policy priority is Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration by first of all sharing their human rights and democratic values and forsaking the rhetoric of war. Georgia should initiate a dialogue with the RF to overcome current crisis of bilateral relations. Georgia should contribute to international efforts to manage global challenges, such as participation in NATO operations. The country should cooperate with the USA. In the frame of the Strategic Partnership agreement and should fulfill its obligations undertaken in agreements with the EU. Relationships with the peoples of the North Caucasus should not be used as a “weapon” in the conflict with the RF. Greater priority must be given to deepening relations with neighboring countries (Azerbaijan, Turkey, Armenia, Iran). Georgia should become a regional platform for political, economic, social and business opportunities.
CDM– Georgia’s security and democracy are impossible without NATO integration and close integration with the EU. NATO is the only alliance to whose membership Georgia aspires. However, measures need to be taken to ensure that Georgia preserves its national identity and traditional heritage. The country should pursue a multi-vector foreign policy and strengthen bilateral strategic relationships (with U.S., selected EU members [UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Baltic States] states and politically and economically influential Asian countries [China, India, Japan]). Georgia should continue taking an active part in NATO peace- keeping operations. At the same time, friendly relations should be cultivated with the central Asian states and Iran for Georgia to fully realize its potential as an energy transportation corridor. With regard to the RF, dialogue and full economic relations should be restored. Basis for the improvement of bilateral relations between Georgia and the RF should be shared interests in stability in the North Caucasus. Religious extremism and fundamentalism there can pose a danger of disintegration for the RF, which will pose a threat to Georgia.
UNM– Should be restored through peaceful means and intensified dialogue. Policy focus is on: * Georgia’s general economic and institutional development; * continuing diplomatic pressure on Russia to achieve “de- occupation”; * renovating and developing infrastructure to improve freedom of movement and transportation of goods; * improving access to health care and to education for conflict- affected population.
GDC– Works under the general principle that there are no quick or unilateral solutions to the conflicts and that only peaceful measures must be used for their resolution. The strategy to achieve a peaceful resolution should be based on direct contact and dialogue with Abkhaz and South Ossetians to restore trust and reconciliation. Attention will be focused on cooperation in the economic, humanitarian, educational, health care and cultural field as well as joint infrastructural programs. Another pillar of the party policy is to receive maximum support from the international community on questions of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with a view to continuing the non-recognition policy. International forums are to be used to monitor situation in the conflict regions, protect human rights and make peace. Direct dialogue with the RF is necessary for the withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the deployment of international observers.
CDM– The pre-requisite for restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity is the “de-occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Talks should be resumed with the RF over the provisions of the cease-fire agreement. Georgia’s foreign policy should continue to focus on promotion the international non- recognition policy. International partners of Georgia should play an important role in restoring territorial integrity.