Georgian Parliament has elected the new Public Defender, with 96 votes to 5. Nino Lomjaria, who was nominated by the ruling Georgian Dream party, will succeed Ucha Nanuashvili. Nanuashvili is due to leave the post on 7 December after 5 years in office.
Lomjaria was chosen over Giorgi Popkhadze, who received 20 votes against 27. Popkhadze, nominated by the Georgian Patriots parliamentary faction, was the only other candidate for the post,.
A group of non-governmental organisations had offered four candidates to Georgian Dream, one of whom was Lomjaria. In 2016–2017 she served as deputy head at the State Audit Office. In 2011-2015 she was executive director of transparency group the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED).
In her speech to parliament, Lomjaria stated that if elected, defending women’s rights and freedom of expression would be two of her top priorities.
She also promised to focus on environmental issues and strengthening the institution of the Public Defender’s Office.
Her candidacy has been protested by several far-right groups including the March of Georgians, with one group claiming on Facebook that they won’t allow ‘an enemy of Orthodoxy in the Public Defender’s Office’.
[Read on OC Media: Who was in and who was out in Tbilisi’s far-right March of Georgians]
Popkhadze focusned on what he called ‘harsh social conditions that need to be addressed by the Public Defender’.
Popkhadze previously worked as Brussels correspondent for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and Obiektivi, a TV channel owned by Alliance of Patriots leader Irma Inashvili, who has become infamous for his homophobic rhetoric.
During his initial parliamentary hearing he promised to prioritise labour rights, monitoring of prisons, and the rights of Georgian emigrants. He later discussed homophobia, promising to protect queer people’s rights while vowing that ‘their propaganda must be strictly banned’.