Since the launch of the Georgian Government’s e-petition platform (ICHANGE.GOV.GE), for the first time in two years a petition has garnered sufficient number of signatures, which obligates the Government to review it and respond to its signees. The successful petition, entitled “Campaign against gambling”, was initiated by a non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, Ana Dolidze, who registered it on November 4, 2019. The cause was able to collect the required 10,000 signatures within the 30-day time frame and concluded with 10,182 signatures. The authors and proponents of the petition demand introduction of new regulations on gambling and the total prohibition of their advertisement.
According to the Government’s decree №245 regarding the rules and conditions of use of the e-petition platform, if any given petition collects a minimum of 10,000 signatures within 30 days, it shall go through the following procedures:
- It shall be considered by a special Commission set up in the Government Administration;
- Upon the decision of the Commission, an e-petition shall be discussed on a higher level, during a Government meeting;
- The Georgian government is obligated to respond to the author of a successful e-petition within 3 months. More specifically, the e-petition expert commission, with the assistance of the Government administration’s political analysis, strategic planning and coordination department’s e-governance unit’s technical and organizational support, an official response to the petition shall be prepared and sent to the administrator of the e-petition portal to be published on the platform.
According to the decree, “the official written response must contain a clear, substantiated explanation of the government’s position on the relevant issue. “
On November 29, proponents of the petition urged the Government to review the petition. As a response to it, the Government Administration disseminated the information, that “The petition will be referred to the Government Administration’s commission of experts to be processed and prepared for further consideration.“
For effective functioning of the e-petition system, it is of utmost importance, that the above mentioned petition’s reviewing process is conducted transparently and in consonance with every rule of the governmental decree. Since the launch of ICHANGE.GOV.GE none of the petitions has reached the required number of signatures, which can be explained by various circumstances: platform’s lack of publicity, low rate of citizen activity and relatively complicated, two-step e-signature procedure. Apart from this, IDFI indicated from the beginning that setting 10,000 signatures in 30 days as a success threshold for petitions is quite high (instead IDFI suggested a 5,000 signature threshold). For this reason, we expressed suspicions that the above mentioned conditions might initially hinder effective usage of the platform by citizens.
Indeed, from December 2017 to this day, 102 petitions can be found in archive, while there are seven open petitions. Among the active petitions, the petition on Rustavi air pollution initiative counts the most signatures (149). From the archived petitions, after the petitions on gambling issues, the most signees (556) can be seen on the rehabilitation initiative for the Ilia Chavchavadze court building. The absolute majority of expired petitions were not able to accumulate more than 100 signatures.
These circumstances affirm that over the past two years, citizens have not been using the e-petition platform sufficiently and effective measures are needed for its popularization. The consideration of the first successful petition can play a crucial role in influencing the population’s attitudes towards the use of the new platform. If the established procedures are followed, the petition’s active supporters are involved by the government, and a timely, substantial response is provided to the authors during the consideration of this petition, the popularity and trustworthiness of the platform will increase significantly.
IDFI recommended creation of an online petition system back in 2012 and since then, has been actively involved in the process of developing the system. We believe that the e-petition system will significantly facilitate further development and improvement of e-participation standards in the country. Therefore, IDFI will monitor the government’s consideration process of the petition on gambling.
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