Why wasn’t Akhalkalak granted the right to self-governance?
On Feb. 5, by a third reading, the Parliament of Georgia passed the new draft law on self-governing bodies. Based on the draft law, Akhaltskha is the only city that received the honor of being a self-governing city in Samtskhe-Javakheti. However, for some reason, Akhalkalak was not recognized as a self-governing city.
In the beginning, the parliament was going to pass a law on local self-government, according to which the mayors of cities with more than 15,000 residents would be elected. In this case, Akhalkalak would also become a self-governing city.
The purpose of the legislative reforms was to use the successful experience of democratic countries in the decentralization of cities and regions, which would surely bring a new sweep to the development of regions. But the plan for freedom and democracy in making legislative reforms clashed with the criticism of Patriarch of Georgians Ilya II and made the Parliament afraid of making the reforms in cities and regions inhabited by ethnic minorities.
Ilya II touched upon this issue during his sermon at the temple in Svetistskhoveli where he said the following:
"Our parliament and government are discussing the issue of self-governance. This is a very intricate issue. If the law is passed, we’ll face collapse. We’ll never tolerate that and will do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Let’s agree that after such a statement by the reputable Patriarch of Georgians, the parliament couldn’t pass the draft law in its initial form and that the cities inhabited by ethnic minorities wouldn’t be granted the right to self-governance. No matter how much some claim that the Church has nothing to do with governance, that’s not the case in Georgia.
Many, to say the least, are amazed that the granting of the status of a self-governing city to Akhalkalak could lead to collapse. If we try to understand the level of self-governance granted to regions, we’ll see that it would have simply been a democratic reform that would give the people the right to elect the mayor and the heads of regions, and the governor would be appointed, as in the past.
In the case of election of governors, only the regions could have become self-governing bodies to a certain extent, which is accepted in several democratic countries where there are also regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. Those countries are incomparably developed and are developing without any threats or problems, but there was nothing mentioned about the election of governors in Georgia.
The new draft law on self-governing bodies showed the Georgian parliamentarians’ discrimination against their own citizens, which can cause more harm than help the development of cities and regions.
Let’s hope the draft law will undergo reforms and such a status will be granted to all citizens of Georgia without discrimination and with the awareness that the self-governance of cities can’t put the country’s security at risk, will increase the country’s reputation in the international arena and will serve as more impetus for the development of cities and regions.