5th Annual Democracy Conference (#GEODEM): Elections in the Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A New Challenge for Georgia’s Uncertain Democracy? – Conference Notes
This year is vitally important for Georgia’s democratic consolidation. The 2020 Parliamentary elections are a test which will determine the country’s political dynamic for the next decade. Despite the progress achieved with the help of the international community, several factors currently damage Georgia’s social-political environment. These include challenges related to the reforms within the electoral system, severe political and social polarization, a nihilistic attitude among the population, a long tradition of ruling parties using administrative resources for political gains and, a visible disproportionality between donations to different political parties. In addition to these factors, the COVID-19 pandemic brings its own unique technical, political and social threats to the 2020 parliamentary elections.
Considering these challenges, the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) held the 5th Annual Democracy Conference “Elections in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic: A new challenge for Georgia’s uncertain democracy?” Considering the pandemic, the GIP held the three online conference panels on June 17, July 1 and July 14.
Director of GIP – Professor Kornely Kakachia offered the opening remarks of the conference. Panels were moderated by Dr. Stefan Meister – Head of the Heinrich Boell Foundation Tbilisi Office – South Caucasus Region.; John DiPirro – Resident Program Director at International Republican Institute (IRI) and Nino Gelashvili – journalist, Radio Liberty. Speakers included: Tamar Zhvania – Chairperson of the Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC); Giorgi Tsereteli – Member of “European Georgia” and President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; Mamuka Khazaradze – Chairperson of “Lelo for Georgia”; Salome Samadashvili – Member of the “United National Movement”; H.E. Kelly Degnan – Ambassador of the United States to Georgia; H.E. Justin McKenzie Smith – Ambassador of the UK to Georgia; Viola Von Cramon – Member of the European Parliament, “European Green Party”; Christian Urse – Head of the Council of Europe Office in Georgia; Tamar Chugoshvili – Independent Member of Parliament; Shota Dighmelashvili – Co-founder of the “Shame” Movement and the Governance Monitoring Centre, Journalist, and Executive Editor at Forbes Georgia; Mikheil Benidze – Representative of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Tamar Kintsurashvili – Executive Director of Media Development Foundation (MDF).
The following report presents the major highlights and findings from each panel discussion.