What is Girchi?
Girchi is an libertarian non-parliamentary opposition political party in Georgia founded in 2015 and it was founded in November 2015 by Zurab Girchi Japaridze, Pavle Kublashvili, Giorgi Khachidze, and Giorgi Meladze - the four lawmakers who quit the United National Movement, the former ruling and then parliamentary minority party.
Girchi unites people who share the principles of nonaggression (NAP); supremacy of individual; property rights; free market and voluntary association; freedom of speech and expression. Girchi is sceptical of authority and state powers as it advocates for minimal government and state’s non-interference in personal life and economy. Any activity or campaign associated with Girchi is based on unconditional and deep belief that our bodies belong only to us; that committing violence against nonaggressor is immoral, and that private property is ‘sacred’.
Girchi attracts largely young voters in urban areas. Recent surveys show that most Girchi supporters are educated, successfully employed or own small businesses. They are, at the same time, interested in politics and civil activism. There are over 17,000 supporters and interested people in the Girchi Members group on Facebook.
Past electoral results
In the first round of the 2016 Presidential Elections, Girchi’s candidate Zurab Girchi Japaridze received total of 36,034 votes representing 2.26% of the total votes.
At the 2019 Mid-term Parliamentary Elections, Girchi’s candidate Hermann Sabo received 4.8% of the total votes in Mtatsminda District.
Party structure and financing
Girchi is the first Georgian online party that rejected a standard party structure and methods of political activity by choosing Facebook as its main platform and hub for communication and activism. It is now expanding to reach out to the Twitter and Instagram audiences.
Girchi’s online platform ( www.girchi.com ) with its currently registers over 3,000 members, promotes self-nominated political candidates who aspire becoming politicians and promoting the ideas of #morefreedom (#მეტითავისუფლება). The platform is open and invites anyone who values freedom and shares the principles. On the platform, candidates contest while members vote and rank them to form the final Party Lists for the elections using Girchi’s digital currency Georgian Dollar (GED). Members also use the platform to finance the party itself, its politicians and projects. Girchi’s all current financing comes solely from its projects and voluntary contributions from the members through the platform and it is unique in this regard unlike all other political parties in Georgia now.
Constitution governs all Girchi’s activities, management of its offices, resources and online platforms through a CEO appointed by the Party Council.
Pinecone (Girchi) symbol
Girchi in Georgian means pinecone and it symbolizes freshness and enlightenment. The green colour is a reference to the first campaign against inhumane and repressive drug policies and for legalization of marijuana. The two-year public, civil disobedience and legal campaign ended with Girchi’s victory: on 30 November 2018, on the Girchi’s case, the Constitutional Court of Georgia ruled that it is unconstitutional to prosecute and punish an individual (criminally or administratively) for personal consumption of cannabis.
Decriminalization and legalization of cannabis consumption for personal use.
Upon its foundation in 2015, Girchi launched a campaign on Facebook and national TV media outlets to combat the oppressive and repressive drug policies in Georgia. The campaign culminated on the New Year’s Eve in 2016 in civil disobedience act when Girchi leaders, politicians and supporters publicly planted the cannabis seed at the Girchi office premises. Sustained campaign in 2017 concluded in the Constitutional Court of Georgia ruling of 30 June 2017 in favour of Gircihi to say that criminal penalty for consumption of cannabis is unconstitutional, thereby decriminalizing the cannabis use in Georgia. Later, on 30 November 2018, on the same grounds and once again in favour of Girchi, the same Court removed all administrative penalties for personal consumption of cannabis, thereby legalizing it in Georgia, the first country to do so in Europe and ex-Soviet space. Unfortunately, in response to the Court ruling and on the initiative of the majority ruling party, the Parliament confined the right to use cannabis to only the residential premises in absence of children and refused legalize any means of acquiring a completely legal substance. Up until now, Girchi campaigns for legalization of cultivation for personal use by representing incarcerated persons and those in trial on cultivation charges.
Religion – Biblical Freedom
On March 2017, the Public Registry of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia officially registered Girchi’s church - the Christian Evangelical Protestant ‘Biblical Freedom’ Church of Georgia. Georgian legislation provides special privileges and exemptions for the clergy and students at theological schools, including the deferment of compulsory military service. ‘Biblical Freedom’ used the provision for the benefit of young men who do not want to serve in the army. The Church issues state-recognised documents to those who do not wish to join the army, certifying that they are ‘priests’ in the Church. It serves to effectively temporary exempt them from mandatory military service, so that they can lead their lives according to their own free will, values and opinions. The consecration and ordination process takes few minutes and the Church welcomes voluntary donation to cover the certificate and corresponding costs.
Girchi has successfully implemented several other campaigns and civil disobedience acts to highlight and demonstrate the adverse harmful effects of some laws, unnecessary and authoritarian regulations and bureaucracy. Some of the most notable ones are 'Shmaxi', Brothel 'Pioneer', Cannabis Festival, Lottery Civil Disobedience and Purchase of Bio Drugs.