Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Georgian Attitudes to Judicial Independence | EWMI JILEP report

Recently we undertook extensive research into judicial independence in Georgia for EWMI. This is what EWMI just put up on the website:

On January 24, 2012 CRRC presented a study entitled, “Attitudes towards the Judicial System in Georgia.” The study was supported by the Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project (JILEP), implemented by the East West Management Institute (EWMI) and funded by USAID.

Since 2003, much has been done to reform the Georgian judicial system including the establishment of a High School of Justice, restructuring of the High Council of Justice, and major changes in the makeup of the judiciary and prosecutor’s office. However, these successes have been accompanied by serious concerns, particularly regarding judicial independence. International organizations from the Council of Europe to the US State Department have urged further reform of the system.

Relatively little research has been conducted to ascertain how Georgians themselves feel about their judicial system. It is with this in mind, that the East West Management Institute engaged the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), to undertake a comprehensive study of public attitudes toward the judicial system. CRRC employed a methodology that included citizen surveys, focus groups, and interviews which resulted in robust findings grounded in both quantitative and qualitative data analysis.

Representatives of the Georgian judiciary, non-governmental and international organizations working in the area of rule of law attended the presentation.

The link to the article is here. And find the report, which we tried to keep crisp and accessible while also rich in nuance and detail, by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

EU Survey Report Released: Knowledge and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia

On January 16, 2012 the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and CRRC presented a report entitled “Knowledge and Attitudes toward the European Union in Georgia” based on nationwide surveys conducted in Georgia by CRRC in 2009 and 2011. The 2009 survey was the first comprehensive study of Georgian attitudes towards the European Union. Koba Turmanidze, Country Director of CRRC-Georgia presented the report. Following the presentation, a panel of representatives from the EU Delegation, including Boris Iarochevitch and Oliver Reisner, the Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany--Ortwin Hennig, and Dr. Kakha Gogolashvili--Director of Center for EU Studies at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) gave commentary on the data and its potential implications for the Georgia-EU relationship.

The data reveals that a majority of Georgians (80%) support Georgia joining the EU. As described in the report, support for Georgia’s membership in the EU has increased over time, but so too has support for EU membership for all other Eastern Partnership countries, as well as Turkey and Russia. While support for membership is high, knowledge of what exactly membership entails and the overall functions of the EU can be strengthened.

As noted by the panel, the findings of the report imply that Georgia is moving in the right direction for EU membership in several areas. Georgians’ support is compatible with the objectives of membership; however, there are many areas that need to be improved. Representatives from the EU delegation suggested increasing efforts to educate Georgians about collaborative efforts between Georgia and the EU. Overall, the report indicates a positive relationship with the EU and has generated enthusiasm among scholars and politicians alike.

Those interested in learning more about the study can access the datasets at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis (ODA) webpage. The report is also available in English and Georgian on CRRC’s website.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Democracy in Georgia

In the wake of Russian protests for free and fair elections— one of the hallmarks of democracy— the international community has again turned its attention on democratization in the post-Soviet region. Democracy, in its various forms, represents something different to everyone. So what does it mean for Georgians? Do Georgians consider Georgia to be a democratic state in its present form? What are their perceptions of democracy? CRRC, on behalf of the National Democratic Institute-Georgia, conducted a repeated survey on public attitudes in Georgia from November 2008 to September 2011 in which respondents were asked a series of questions about democracy. Survey results show that just under half of the population considers Georgia to be a democracy. Also, most Georgians associate democracy with liberty, freedom of speech, media and expression, rather than government accountability and free and fair elections.

From April 2010 to September 2011, Georgians were asked ‘Is Georgia a democracy now’? The figure below shows that since July 2010 there has been a steady increase in the percentage of Georgians who believe Georgia is a democracy with 45% believing so in September 2011.

When asked to gauge the extent of Georgia’s transition to democracy in the September 2011 survey, 39% of Georgians said ‘Georgia is already a democracy but still needs improvement’, while 28% said Georgia is not a democracy, but is moving in that direction. In contrast, only 5% of Georgians believe Georgia is not and will never be a democracy.

Thus, the data shows that just under half of the population (45%) considers Georgia to be a democracy, and many people believe Georgia is either already a democracy that needs improvement or is not yet a democracy but is still developing in that direction. But what does democracy mean to Georgians? The 2011 survey asked, ‘What does democracy mean to you?’ 47% of Georgians interpret democracy to mean freedom of speech/media/hearing different views. 42% associate democracy with liberty and 40% say equality before the law/protection of justice. In contrast, only 7% say government accountability and 16% think democracy means free and fair elections. The results elicit a strong difference in the Georgian interpretation of democracy which prizes liberty and freedom of speech/media/hearing different views above free and fair elections.

Respondents were allowed to provide their own responses. The percentages do not add to 100% because respondents could name up to three items.

Thus, survey data tells us that the percentage of Georgians who think Georgia is a democracy is increasing over time, that there is room for improvement, and that the concept of democracy is more associated with liberty and freedom of speech/media/hearing different views, than government accountability and free and fair elections. This is important in light of recent global events in which ordinary citizens have begun to challenge their state systems and certain features of their democracy.

How do you think Georgia fairs on its path to democracy? Has Georgia reached its goal or is there still room for improvement?