Wednesday, 16 January 2002

HUSBAND’S PROMOTION CREATES CRISIS FOR GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER

Published in Field Reports

By Irakly Areshidze (1/16/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The appointment of Badri Bitsadze, the husband of newly elected Georgian Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burdjanadze, to the post of First Deputy Procurator General has rapidly become a political crisis for the country’s second highest ranking official. Bitsadze had previously served as the Procurator for the military and was promoted in early December.  Shortly after the appointment, the New Rights Party and its Parliamentary Faction (one of three second largest with 18 Deputies) protested the appointment in a memorandum issued on December 18, 2001.

The appointment of Badri Bitsadze, the husband of newly elected Georgian Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burdjanadze, to the post of First Deputy Procurator General has rapidly become a political crisis for the country’s second highest ranking official. Bitsadze had previously served as the Procurator for the military and was promoted in early December.  Shortly after the appointment, the New Rights Party and its Parliamentary Faction (one of three second largest with 18 Deputies) protested the appointment in a memorandum issued on December 18, 2001. The Party argued that Bitsadze’s appointment violated the spirit of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution—the Office of Procurator General is part of the Judiciary branch—by concentrating two powerful Legislative and Judiciary offices in the hands of one family.  Furthermore, the New Rights Party declared that Burdjanadze and Bitsadze would use their new power against political opponents and prevent fair investigation of allegations of corruption that have been leveled against Burdjanadze’s “reformist” allies in the Georgian media for much of the Fall.  Because Bitsadze would be directly responsible for the investigation of alleged vote tampering that took place during the Parliamentary Speaker elections in November 2001, the Chairman of the New Rights Party’s Parliamentary Faction Dr. David Gamkrelidze also charged that the appointment creates a conflict of interest. The Party demanded that Burdjanadze call on her husband and his boss, the newly appointed Procurator General Nugzar Gabrichidze, to step down.  To protest the appointment, New Rights Deputies have refused to attend Parliamentary sessions since mid-December.  

Burdjanadze, Bitsadze, and Gabrichidze have defended the appointment, claiming that no violation of the law has occurred.  Radio Free Europe reported on December 28, 2001 that while appearing before Parliamentary leaders, the Procurator General defended the appointment, stating that “he is empowered by the Georgian Constitution to select his own deputies, and that his choice of Bitsadze was motivated solely by the latter’s professional qualities.”  President Eduard Shevardnaze also jumped into the fray, stating that the appointment is legal.  They have not responded, however, to the New Rights Party’s accusation that Gabrechidze’s appointment and smooth sailing in Parliament during the confirmation process resulted from a political deal between the Speaker of Parliament and the new Procurator General, in which the latter promised to promote Burdjanadze’s husband. 

Gamkrelidze and the New Rights Party have continued to argue that the appointment raises moral, rather than strictly legal, questions, and that such deal-making, political opportunism, and corruption was unseen even during the period of Communist rule. The controversy has moved away from the front pages during the Georgian holiday season, which ended on January 13, 2002, but is surely to  return to the forefront in the coming weeks.

Irakly Areshidze
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