The President of Georgia opened the first session of the 8th Parliament of Georgia

Dear Representatives of the people of Georgia,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honored and humbled to come here and address you today.

You are, all of you, from every fraction and from each party represented here, the legitimate representatives of the Georgian nation as a whole - a nation that we are all cherishing and serving.

The October 1st election was another step in the building of our common democratic State.

A new majority has emerged, a new Parliament is convened today, a new Prime Minister is expected tomorrow, a new government is being formed and a new opposition has consolidated itself.

All of this constitutes the first democratic “alternance” in the history of our country.

Georgian citizens have finally built a system in which the government is not changed by bullets, tanks or even by heroic roses but by simple ballots, through normal elections and not dramatic revolutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This Parliament, standing at the center of our country, is the very heart of our democratic life; the heart which begins beating today.

It will be more divided, more balanced, and more vivid than the previous one.

While many opposition elected members had refused to take their seats in 2008, I am happy and proud that everyone is sitting here today.

Ahead of you, we all foresee, in this very room, fierce and tough debates, severe and passionate arguments.

Beyond our political affiliations, we can all agree on the following: there are so many key issues on which we disagree and will keep disagreeing that this room will be a very lively place.

Our differences and oppositions will not disappear for sure, but they shall remain in the framework of the institutions, in the limits of the constitution.

Some of you were demonstrating outside the former Parliament when I inaugurated its previous legislature in 2008, and now you are inside the Parliament, as MPs, sometimes aiming at very high positions: Ladies and gentlemen, this is democracy at work; this reflects the inclusiveness of the institutions Georgia has built.

Change of power should become a habit in our country, as it is in other European democracies.

And then, slowly but surely, the “winner takes all” mentality that is characteristic of young democracies and transitional countries will disappear.

Then slowly but surely, the civil war rhetoric that heats up newly formed political landscapes will vanish.

Then, slowly but surely, Georgia will be a normal European democracy knocking at the door of its natural home: the European Union. And this door will open and – most naturally – we – all of us – will have brought back our nation into its family.

For this to happen, we all need to respect the institutions, we all need to respect the constitution, we all need to respect our opponents.

Because those who were in opposition yesterday became the government today, and those who are in opposition today might become the government again tomorrow.

This is something that we all have to admit – and it requires a lot of work on ourselves: we are not enemies, but political adversaries.

The campaign has been tough, rude, virulent probably on both sides, but now, you are all representing the whole nation, not a part of it, all of our multi ethnic society!

Yesterday was the time for campaigning, for competition, and today comes the time for work.

The time to work to create the jobs our people want, the time to work to improve our agriculture, the time to work to make sure our infrastructure is progressing, the time to work to develop our healthcare system, also the time to work to pursue our transatlantic and European integration and our democratic development, as well as to work relentlessly on recovering territorial integrity, de-occupation, preservation of our sovereignty and not falling into our occupier’s trap.

I wish for the majority to be able to fulfill its promises to people regarding raising the quality of life, and I wish for the minority to be an effective opposition which never desires defeat of its country.

Once again, let me be clear: this does not mean that we have forgotten our very deep differences or that we should suddenly agree on things on which we cannot, and will not agree on.

Very opposite views are represented here on economic policies, on the fight against organized crime and corruption, on regional development, on civil liberties, on minority rights, on culture and on foreign policy. These views should confront each other in the walls of this parliament building.

Montesquieu, the famous French philosopher, one of the founding fathers of the European Enlightenment and of political liberalism, once wrote: “When you enter in a city and see that everybody agrees with each other and with the government, then you can be sure you are not in a Republic, but in a cemetery”.

Ladies and gentlemen, Georgia for sure is not a cemetery and our country will never become one.

It is a very lively place where everybody has not only the right, but the strong will to express their opinion and criticism all the time.

And this culture of dissent is the social basis of our democracy as long as it remains in the constitutional framework, obviously.

A culture of dissent and respect for the rule of law and the constitution: these are the two principles shaping Georgian democracy, as well as any democracy all around the globe.

Dear MPs,

Democracy is always and everywhere a work in progress.

And now comes a crucial time for democratic development of our country.

Decentralization of the decision making process should be pursued, so that more citizens have a direct say in the decisions that will impact their lives, so that the political elite is always more connected to the evolutions of the society, so that this elite is really representing the variety and the plurality of our society.

Moving the Parliament to Kutaisi was not an easy decision or a punishment against the capital, it is part of a larger plan to decentralize institutions and development, to deconcentrate powers, to make sure the whole country had a stake in our institutions.

It is a symbol and a tool of the new equilibrium that shall be reached by the Georgian society.

It is a symbol and a tool of the development plan for the cities which once were considered secondary.

Beyond this, the local political life should continue to be enhanced more rapidly.

When I came to power, the President was appointing the mayors and the township heads. Now they are elected by the city councils, and the Mayor of Tbilisi is directly elected by the population.

This direct election should be extended to all mayors and all township heads. I also offer you to elect government by direct vote.

This will be decisive in rooting deeper and deeper the democratic institutions in our country.

Decentralization is not only an essential democratic principle; it is the most efficient tool of development, and the best way to make our institutions functioning and sustainable.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that all of us do realize what a unique opportunity we all have to show to the Georgian people and to the world that we are all dedicated to the democratic principles and the unity of our nation.

It is not a time for anger, revenge or bitterness. It is a time for collective reflection, debate and work.

I offered to the upcoming Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, my full personal cooperation on the process of the EU and NATO integration, as well as the full cooperation of the NSC and of the Presidential Administration staff.

Because the EU and NATO are national causes that go well beyond our political differences.

The same applies to the ways to recover our territorial integrity and to protect our country from all external threats: I will, with my team, be at the service of the Georgian nation, in full cooperation with the new government on this issue.

Because there is something that stands above all of us present here: the supreme interest of our nation, of our people.

And I call on all of you to work well to serve this supreme interest for the best.

Because we all love Georgia,

Thank you!

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