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Journal number 4 ∘ Natalia Dzidziguri
Crisis driven by politics

Annotation: The crisis after local elections is an indicator of the extent to which political parties will be able to reach consensus on vital issues. The crisis increases the nihilism among the population towards state institutions and parties, hinders the implementation of state-funded projects in municipalities, damages the process of decentralization and, ultimately, undermines the idea of ​​a multi-party coalition government.

Keywords: local self-government, post-election crisis, political pluralism, decentralization, coalition government.

"... Our system is democratic,

Democracy is based on two forces - the urban and the rural ones -

Strengthening rural and urban self-government – That is the concern of our government.

Democracy is weak where these organs of self-government are not strong..."

Speech by Noe Ramishvili at  the Second Congress of Nationality Representatives of Georgia;

Unity No. 213; 09/20/1919

        In the modern world, in the wake of the process of development and the emergence of new challenges, there is a discussion about how effectively the existing management systems work, what challenges are facing this or that level of management, what the role of us and people involved in active politics are, and what we should do together to put the interests of the state above our narrow party interests.

       Of course, there is no ideal management model in nature, and these systems are constantly undergoing changes in a growing society. These changes are associated either with the creation of a new model, or with the maintenance and correction of an existing system.

      Global social-political, social-cultural and technological changes have become challenges for modern public administration systems. Modern concepts of “new public administration” and “governance” emphasize the effectiveness of public administration, political pluralism in the decision-making process, they focus on delegating authority to lower levels of government, more decentralized distribution of power, responsibility and accountability, and increased community development and participation [Trofimova, 2011. p. 35].

      Effective governance is observed as one of the factors that determine the success of regions, as it promotes skill development, technological change, natural and artificial environments, and such "Intangible Benefits” as the labor market, social institutions, rules of action, knowledge, and values ​​(Keating 1998: 137). However, it is important to understand that the correlation between "good" management and economic success is not always easy to establish. Of course, governance structures affect local and economic development, but it should also be said that a successful economy contributes to the formation of effective forms of governance [Paik..., 2020: 8].

             The role of local self-government in the modern system of government is recognized as the institution closest to the population and responsible for the implementation of effective management, taking into account the interests of the local population (from an objective and subjective point of view, since politics takes into account the interests of voters).

       What is the significance and role of this institution? What underlies its establishment? What is the reason for the desire of all democratic states to strengthen local governments?

• the first is freedom (autonomy) – the presence of local self-government prevents the  concentration of power of the central government, and also allows making various political decisions on the spot;

• Second - participation (democracy) - the presence of local self-government contributes to the active participation of the population in the of local important processes.

• Efficiency - local self-government bodies are effective management structures that, taking into account the interests of the local population, can provide appropriate services, that means, the efficiency is the driving force that affects the final result [Svyanevich, 2003:2].

     Plato in his "Laws" prescribes three main features to the legislator, "that the state must be free, internally friendly and reasonable” [Platon, book: 4]. These words best describe the functions of those involved in public administration.

     In order for democracy to really function, it is necessary to form a government (no matter at what level) in accordance with the will of the people, and the main task of politicians is to protect the interests of the people and take them into account.

       During the long history of Georgia's self-government, there have been many attempts to create a strong local self-government. In 2004, Georgia ratified the "European Charter on Local Self-Government", which obligated the country to protect local self-government and strengthen it, based on the principles of democracy and decentralization of power [10].

       Unfortunately, local democracy has been unable to go beyond Soviet approaches for many years. First of all, this is due to the lack of political will among the ruling elite, since they do not want to lose the mechanisms of absolute control, that developed during the Soviet period at the lower levels of power.

       Representatives of local self-government are elected by direct vote. They are accountable to their constituents, not to the central government or political party that represents them [11].

      At the same time, the involvement of civil society in the implementation of social, political, economic or cultural initiatives is increasing; also, based on the desires and needs of civil society, the participation of citizens in the decision-making process is increasing. If we consider the activity of the population in the elections to local self-government bodies from 2006 to the present, then we can observe the growing dynamics throughout the country (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1

Participation of the population in elections to local governments

throughout the country in 2006-2021

Source: CEC  https://cesko.ge/

      We think, first of all, this is due to the diversity of political parties, what gives citizens the opportunity to choose, as well as the awareness of the social-economic programs of parties, the active involvement of modern technologies and television in the electoral process, and, most importantly, the desire to make changes in order to make their contribution to the social, economic and political development of their region, village, city or country, which directly affects their quality of life.

       According to a survey conducted by CRRC-Georgia for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in November 2019, 95% of our population consider the participation of citizens in public processes important for the democratic development of the country. However, a number of studies confirm that the level of civic engagement in Georgia is still low [12].

     Woodrow Wilson, 28th president and founder of the science of American public administration, considered the existence of trust between the state and society an important principle of public administration, because it is the trust that determines the course that people will vote for. Thus, “the task of the management organizer is to ensure that management methods correspond to clearly established conditions of responsibility, which, in turn, forms trust” [Kozbanenko, 2002 ch: 4].

    In recent years, local self-government elections in Georgia have become an example of many crises.

    Turning local self-government into a springboard for "political trade", putting narrow, party interests above the issues of water supply, sanitation, landscaping, roads, cleaning or other similar issues of our city or community that concern us in everyday life - this is inadmissible and unacceptable.

     Crisis in the dictionary of definitions (Greek Krisis) means a decisive change, a sharp, painful weakening of power, a failure in the activities of state structures, a difficult transitional situation, a loss of trust and authority.

    Such a “bridgehead” for the municipalities of Borjomi, Ozurgeti and Tianeti was the 2018 local self-government elections in Georgia. As soon as the elections were announced, it became clear that the balance of power was upset, the ruling party lost both executive and legislative power in these municipalities. The opposition represented the majority in the Borjomi municipality council, and the ruling party was in the minority, so the council had an opposition chairman and the mayor represented the ruling party.

 In the municipality of Tianeti, it happened the opposite - the executive body was headed by an oppositionist, while the majority in the legislative body belonged to the ruling party.

     In Borjomi, actually, the problem was caused precisely by such a distribution of power, and the task for both the authorities and the opposition became clear - the opposition, no matter what it cost, had to create problems for the mayor's office and to expand its influence, while the government had to change the existing status quo [13].

       The controversy began with the election of chairmen of sectoral commissions, which continued with regard to the formation of the fraction part; then the opposition, in order to gain influence, used tougher approaches and seven times refused the mayor's office to amend the law "On wages in budgetary institutions." Paradoxically, at the same time, the same city council approved the budget for 2018 with a clause on salary increases. The question arises – why did it happen? According to Article 91 of the “Local Self-Government Code” of Georgia, “if the draft budget of the municipality is not approved within 3 months from the beginning of the new budget year, the Government of Georgia terminates the powers of the municipal council and the measure in accordance with the procedure established by this law”, what was unprofitable for both parties.

 In addition, the ruling party did not attend meetings of the Assembly for three months, and the “ Code of Local Self-Government”, we read that the powers of a member of the municipal council are terminated ahead of time if “he did not participate in the work of the municipal council for 6 consecutive months for an unexcused reason” (Article 43). Of course, he could not be in a permanent boycott regime, and such a situation would eventually force him to give up his mandate. At the same time, it is significant that in this process, none of the parties expressed a desire to resolve the crisis through dialogue [13].

     In the midst of this controversy, an "older friend" in the form of the central government emerged and began to act. Finally, four months later, the city council of Borjomi had a new chairman of the city council from the ruling party.

      Giorgi Andguladze, an expert on local self-government, believes that “this precedent directly says that we cannot have a multi-party council, we cannot have representatives of different parties in the council, that one party cannot have a decisive majority in the council. All this suggests that we cannot work by listening to and considering the opinions of many people, and we must put the interests of the party first.”

      Koka Kiguradze, executive director of the Center for Development of Management Systems, believes that “what happened in the municipality of Borjomi is a continuation of the activities of the Georgian Parliament in Borjomi, and not the Borjomi City Council. The Borjomi City Council is elected by citizens registered in Borjomi to address their urgent and priority needs, and not to create another platform for the struggle of political parties.”

     Self-government expert Irakli Melashvili, besides the low political culture, sees a problem in large self-governments as well. According to him, “the larger the self-government is, the greater the desire and attempt of political parties to interfere in its activities are” [13].

      In the case of the municipality of Tianeti, within three years (until the resignation of the mayor), there were constant clashes and mutual accusations between the opposition mayor and the “pro-government” city council. The City Council failed to approve the 2018 budget twice [14], completing only 6 out of 21 infrastructure projects and ending the budget year with a 48% rate. Also, the Tianeti City Council did not approve projects that should be financed until 2019 from the fund of projects implemented in the regions, etc. [15].

In the 2015 monograph, "Local Self-Government in Georgia in 1991-2014" the following conclusions are presented: legislative changes implemented in 2004-2010 strengthened the ruling political party. The use of public resources at all levels of elections has increased, the number of employees in self-government structures has gone up, for the most part these were party assets that were supposed to ensure the victory of the ruling party in the elections. In the same period, transfers to self-government bodies increased, and the share of unknown expenses increased with them as well, etc. [Losaberidze..., 2015:17].

      In the same work we read that "the council, as a leading, strong body of local self-government, did not take place even in 2006-2012, what was determined by the general political context of the functioning of the local self-government system". At the central, regional and local levels, there has been formed a one-party state vertical, where power was actually exercised on the basis of informal relations established between levels of power. In such a system, individual officials, and not institutions and collegial bodies, were at the forefront. The author (I. Kobakhidze) also made the following conclusions: "The system of local elections should be revised in such a way that it, at the same time, contributes to the formation of a pluralistic environment in the City Council, the strengthening of party structures and the "personification" of local self-government; raising the status of the executive body of local self-government (when a self-governing unit has more financial, material and human resources) should prepare the basis for the full implementation of public services established by law. When defining, it is desirable to give priority to collegial decision-making, in which case, in essence, the executive body as an institution will be strengthened and the dominance of individual officials at the local level, which is considered one of the most important problems of Georgian politics, will be avoided –" [Kobakhidze..., 2015 : 55].

      Analyzing the above, there is a deja vu effect (Fr. Déjà vu), because what we did not like and did not want is returned to us (1991-2012), that is, the establishment of a policy of absolute control over local governments.

        As a result, the approach of all the victorious political parties in Georgia over the past 20 years can be compared with the widespread practice of the political party that won in the United States in the 19th century, which “distributed” public positions to its supporters (spoils system), while organizing the civil service on the basis of “merit system". This approach culminated in the passage of the Pendleton Act of 1883, which led to the creation of the modern institution of public service in the United States [Kozbanenko, 2002 ch. 4:16].

         If you look at the past experience of Georgia, in 1918, when the constitution of the secular self-government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia was approved, there were disagreements in the then political circles. At the same time, consensus, high political culture and love for the country triumphed, and a historic reform was carried out in Georgia. The liberal part of the critics "was skeptical about the reform because of one of its fundamental features, namely the method of electing voters - the possibility of presenting voter lists with party symbols and proportional elections". They had the following argument: a nation is primarily an economic and cultural institution. It should employ self-government specialists and enthusiastic practitioners in this field. Allowing party listing will turn national elections into an arena of party struggle and, therefore, it will always be a space of confrontation and non-cooperation. At the same time, due to party membership, the nation will include those non-specialists who will not be able to conduct economic affairs.

    The Social Democrats hoped for the awareness of political forces and a legal framework that would separate the powers of the center and parties, and local self-government would take over the decision of local affairs.

   The Bolsheviks did not participate in the discussion of secular issues, since they did not officially recognize the convergence of their interests with the democratic model of local self-government [Khvadagiani, 2017. p. 143].

      The crisis after the 2021 local self-government elections in Georgia has taken on a larger scale. Among 64 municipalities that participated in the elections, none of the political parties of the city councils of eight municipalities had the resources to form a majority, and an agreement could not be reached between the parties on the exercise of such powers granted by law as election of officials, approval of the budget and related programs, etc. The political parties had to find common ground, cooperate with each other through dialogue and fulfill the will of their constituents to form a multi-party council, what, unfortunately, is unimaginable in today's polarized political field.

      According to a public opinion poll conducted in December 2021 by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the majority of the population of Georgia believes that the elected opposition parties do not act in the interests of the people (53%), the majority of the population supports inter-party cooperation (80%) and believes that inter-party cooperation is important (80%), and the majority of the population sees the parties themselves as moderators between the authorities and the opposition at the local level (34%) [17].

      After the local elections, by December 3, 2021, the Chairmen of the Assembly at the sessions held in the City Councils of Batumi, Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Chkhorotsk, Senak and Rustavi were not elected.

 After the first meeting of the newly elected city councils, they did not actually function in Batumi and Senaki within almost 5 months; after several attempts, the city council of Zugdidi managed to elect only the chairman, and the carrying out the procedures was not possible for more than 1 month due to the lack of a quorum;

 In those problematic councils, where they managed to elect a chairman after several attempts, the first deputy of the City Council everywhere became a member of the party “For Georgia”. He was supported by 5 members of the "United National Movement" and "Lelo - for Georgia";

 In the City Councils of Zugdidi, Chkhorotsku, Tsalenjikha and Rustavi, besides the position of a chairman, the other positions were shared by the parties participating in the chairman election. The party “Georgian Dream” did not nominate a candidate in the election of officials, and also did not participate in the voting;

 In all City Councils, where the “Georgian Dream” received a majority of the entire membership, the chairman of the city council, deputies and chairmen of the commissions were elected from one party;

 In Martvili and Dmanisi city councils, where a representative of the “Georgian Dream” became

the chairman of the city council with the support of other party and non-party formations, some other positions were also occupied by these entities;

 In the Senaki City Council, where the “National Movement” and the “Gakharia for Georgia” party failed to establish a quorum (majority of the full composition) of the City Council independently, the deputies from the “Georgian Dream” did not attend the meetings. As a result, “Gakharia for Georgia” party could not recognize the powers of one member, and thus, together with the National Movement, they lost the opportunity to vote for a single candidate and elect him as the chairman of the city council;

 The Batumi City Council ceased meetings after December 30, 2021 (due to mid-term elections scheduled for April), thus the possibility of consensus between the parties was practically excluded;

 After December 3, 2021, the Rustavi City Council held a meeting only when the parties agreed on the candidacy of the chairman of the city council. This period lasted almost 2 months [18].

      As for the self-governing city of Batumi, the by-elections held in Batumi on April 2, 2022 were won by a candidate from the ruling party [19]. However, twhe next meeting of the City Council was not be held due to the lack of a quorum (opposition boycott)1 and they did not elect a chairman - what was the direct power of the City Council at that time. In May 2022, the ruling party in the Parliament of Georgia initiated legislative changes to the “Code of Local Self-Government” and the “Electoral Code of Georgia”, according to which the procedure for recognizing the powers of the majority member of the City Council, who won the by-elections, was changed. In particular, the powers of the majority member of the City Council, who won the by-election, are recognized not by the City Council of the municipality, but on the basis of notification of the relevant final protocol on the CEC website [20][21].

      As a result, six months later, on May 30, 2022, a candidate from the ruling party was elected as city council chairman [22].

      The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) believes that this legislative initiative is dictated by political interests and serves to break the political impasse created by the redistribution of political forces in the Batumi Municipal Council in favor of the "Georgian Dream” (ruling party 2012-2022)2, through the use of legislative resources [23].


1- author’s note

2- author’s note    

              The Chairman of the Zugdidi City Council was elected from the opposition party on February 14, 2022. [24]

      The opposition chairman of the City Council of Tsalenjikh was elected on January 20, 2022[25].

On December 23, 2021, there were elected the chairman of the Chkhorotsky municipal council and a representative of the opposition[26].

      The chairman of the Rustavi municipality was elected from the opposition party on January 31, 2022[27].

      The most difficult was the case of the Senaki municipality, since for almost a year the city council could not meet and did not fulfill the functions and duties assigned by law. The issue of the opposition chairman of the City Council[28], elected on February 25, 2022, was challenged by the ruling party in court, where the opposition was defeated. During this time, one of the deputies from the opposition parties demanded early termination of the mandate, so midterm elections were announced in Senaki[29]. The candidate from the ruling party won the elections, and, finally, on October 25, 2022, a chairman was elected from the same party at the session of the City Council [30].

     The problems, which this politically dictated crisis has created for municipalities will become more apparent in the future. At the moment, a number of municipalities (Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Senaki) have not implemented the "Village Support Program", which affected our citizens living in rural areas[31]. Within the framework of this program, the most frequently financed areas are: internal rural roads, internal lighting, fencing, paving of springs, arrangement of public gardens, mini-sports infrastructure, etc. [32].

      Six months of keeping the fraction chairmen and their deputies in the inactive city council cost the Batumi budget about 83,400 lari [33].

      285,900 lari  were spent from the budget of the Senaki municipality for the maintenance of officials in the city council and their deputies for twelve months [34].

Large disproportions in the economic development of municipalities have already been scientifically confirmed [Chikhladze... 2021, p: 54], and the process of decentralization has begun [Dzidziguri, 2020]; it is important to strengthen the municipalities fiscally and increase the degree of independence. The reform should provide a level of income that is financially flexible so that local authorities in the event of fiscal shocks can independently cope with challenges by reducing costs [Chikhladze... 2021: 57], the need for which was proved in 2020, when self-governing cities of Georgia, within the framework of their powers, in difficult conditions caused by limited resources and the virus pandemic (COVID-19), have taken a number of measures [Dzidziguri...2021 ,].

     At the same time, the decentralization process is a declared priority of the country and is reflected in the Decentralization Strategy for 2020-2025 and the Decentralization Action Plans for 2020-2021 and 2022-2023 [35][36]. “Strengthening local self-government and decentralization of governance today, when the country has not received the status of a candidate for the European Union, has become an even more difficult task, because the democratization of the country and joining Europe without redistribution and decentralization of power will remain only a utopian dream” [37].

      Politically, the credibility of all parties has suffered, leading to nihilism among citizens and disillusionment with the political process, as confirmed by the results of an August 2022 National Democratic Institute (NDI) poll.

The majority of the population believes that neither the ruling party (59%), nor the elected opposition parties (67%) act in the interests of the country, both at the parliamentary and local levels. The majority of supporters of the opposition parties believe that the opposition does not act in their interests (24%), also, according to the majority, none of the parties in Georgian politics protects people’s interests (56%), and water supply, roads, sewerage and homeless animals were named as the most important problems at the local level [38].


      An effective management with the presence of economic strategies for local and regional development, as well as effective bureaucratic mechanisms are considered as one of the factors determining the success of the regions.

    The problem remains in the existing large disproportions in the economic development of the regions and the distribution of financial resources necessary for the implementation of delegated powers.

    The starting point of the fiscal decentralization reform and the key to success is that municipalities overcome difficulties with their own financial resources in case of a force majeure situation.

    The post-election crisis is an indicator of how political parties can cooperate with each other and reach consensus on vital issues. There can be observed a lack of political pluralism.

     The crisis weakened self-government as a political institution, and the budgets of cities (Batumi, Senaki) suffered unjustified damage.

    In this situation, the municipalities have problems with the state co-financed "rural support program", infrastructure projects, as well as the implementation of programs provided for in the local budget.

Such processes undermine the idea of ​​a multi-party parliament and a coalition government. Opposition parties are losing the trust of the people, and in such a situation, the electorate at a decisive moment makes a choice in favor of the ruling party in order to avoid such crises.

    If hereafter the opposition spectrum does not have a higher political identity and does not achieve political unity on major state issues, then it is quite possible that the party in power will continue to use all the levers at its disposal to overcome the crisis.

     It is obvious that the central government is trying to encroach on the powers of self-government and, in the absence of political will, to create real, strong local self-government.

     The results of the study of public opinion confirm the presence of nihilism among citizens in relation to political parties and state institutions. 


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