‘Sometimes transitions take more time than you think’ – Shamil Shugaev (FNF Georgia)
In the recent years, liberal political parties in Georgia tend to split into smaller parties. At the moment there are five liberal parties: The Free Democrats, Republican Party, Girchi-More Freedom, LeLo for Georgia and the Strategy Agmashenebeli. These parties have a few seats in the parliament or no seats at all. Therefore, the Liberal Platform was established.
In February 2021 the Liberal Platform was launched. The platform should have had an earlier flying start, but the current Covid-19 pandemic made this difficult. Nevertheless, the parties began to meet physically. VVD International organized together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and the Strategic Dialogue Center (SDC) hybrid events where joint topics were discussed to create common ground between the parties involved. The ultimate goal is to eventually let all the parties sign a memorandum of understanding.
Shamil works for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Georgia. He is a true liberal at heart, who supports the Liberal Platform from the beginning and has a good sight on the functioning and future of this platform.
Shamil, how long are you already active for FNF in Georgia?
‘I started in September 2016 working for FNF in Georgia. I lived in Germany a couple of years, but then decided to move back to Georgia. I used to work in the private sector, but History and Political Science always interested me. I searched for an international organisation to work at and found the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.’
The liberal parties tend to split into smaller parties, what is the reason behind this phenomenon?
‘Georgia has been under Soviet-Union control for over 70 years. During that period, there was only one communist party. Although, the Republican Party existed, they had no opportunity to speak freely. The new party system is new for everyone. Especially for the elderly people it is a new phenomenon to work in this new environment. Furthermore, liberals want to be independent from one another. Every political party in Georgia is searching for a way to develop themselves and that is the reason why the Georgian political field is split.’
What are your core tasks, regarding the Liberal Platform in Georgia?
‘I am a facilitator, which means that I provide a platform for the parties to come together. I am not there to unite the liberal parties in Georgia, but I can at least coordinate the parties who have similar approaches on certain topics. Within the platform they have the opportunity to discuss the topics on which they can cooperate, so there is less rivalry. Cooperation is important for smaller liberal parties represented in Parliament, also because of technical reasons, for example to form a faction, there is a need of seven seats.’
Which parties are members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Europe(ALDE)?
The Republican Party and the Free Democrats are already a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). The Friedrich Naumann Foundation has therefore more tight ties to these parties. Hopefully, the other 3 parties are becoming members of the ALDE very soon.’
What does the Liberal Platform have accomplished so far?
‘Before the Liberal Platform started, the parties had already consensus about two topics: judiciary and self-governance. Furthermore they have reached consensus about political minorities and international security. The municipality elections will be held in October, so it is important that they will continue with the process. The Georgian society also demands more cooperation between the liberal parties. That is a very strong motivation for the parties, which helps them to build fractions in the parliament. At the moment, they are occupied with initiate meeting about topics like economic development and health care. They are also developing a more structured body within the Liberal Platform. They are, for example, developing a structure where the Liberal Platform is characterized by representatives from each party.’
How do you see the future of Georgia and what role does the Liberal Platform play in this?
‘Georgia should maintain with the development inside and outside the country. The liberal parties should make a big commitment to the civil society, because of the biggest danger at this moment: polarization in society. Russian involvement and interference of the church should be closely monitored, because it destabilizes the economic-, political-, and human rights. The perspective to become an European Union member is quite realistic, but Georgian politicians should have to widen and develop the dialogue about this topic. Sometimes transitions take more time than you think.’