The constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the prime minister, a unicameral parliament, and a separate judiciary. The government is accountable to parliament. The president is the head of state and commander in chief. In September, a controversial constitutional amendments package that abolished direct election of the president and delayed a move to a fully proportional parliamentary election system until 2024 became law. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers termed the October local elections as generally respecting fundamental freedoms and reported candidates were able to campaign freely, while highlighting flaws in the election grievance process between the first and second rounds that undermined the right to effective remedy. They noted, too, that the entire context of the elections was shaped by the dominance of the ruling party and that there were cases of pressure on voters and candidates as well as a few violent incidents. OSCE observers termed the October 2016 parliamentary elections competitive and administered in a manner that respected the rights of candidates and voters but stated that the campaign atmosphere was affected by allegations of unlawful campaigning and incidents of violence. According to the observers, election commissions and courts often did not respect the principle of transparency and the right to effective redress between the first and second rounds, which weakened confidence in the election administration. In the 2013 presidential election, OSCE observers concluded the vote “was efficiently administered, transparent and took place in an amicable and constructive environment” but noted several problems, including allegations of political pressure at the local level, inconsistent application of the election code, and limited oversight of alleged campaign finance violations.
While civilian authorities maintained effective control of the Ministry of Defense, there were indications that at times they did not maintain effective control of domestic security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included: alleged participation by government officials in the reported kidnapping and forced rendition to Azerbaijan of an Azerbaijani journalist; arbitrary detentions and deprivation of life by Russian and de facto authorities of the country’s citizens along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) with the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; interference in judicial independence and impartiality; interference with privacy; and violence against LGBTI persons.
The government took steps to investigate some allegations of human rights abuses, but shortcomings remained.
De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained outside central government control and were supported by several thousand Russian troops and border guards occupying the areas since the 2008 conflict with Russia. A cease-fire remained in effect in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian border guards restricted the movement of local populations. While there was little official information on the human rights and humanitarian situation in South Ossetia due to limited access, allegations of abuse persisted.
De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia restricted the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote or otherwise participate in the political process, own property, register businesses, and travel. Although de facto South Ossetian authorities refused to permit most ethnic Georgians driven out due to the 2008 conflict to return to South Ossetia, a special crossing arrangement existed for those from Akhalgori district. De facto authorities did not allow most international organizations regular access to South Ossetia to provide humanitarian assistance. Russian “borderization” of the ABL of the occupied territories continued, separating residents from their communities and livelihoods.