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Constitutional amendments, again

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Wednesday, January 23
Itís now something of a tradition that no sitting parliament leaves office in Georgia without having chalked up the countryís constitution into something only vaguely recognizable.

The most recent major changes were in 2005, when the presidentís power was increased dramatically. A raft of amendments since then have tweaked key election law, all without any public input.

The ruling partyís dominance in parliament means the constitution is little more than a conveniently amendable means to the political end of the day. Voters have little reason to hold the constitution in high reverence, worrisome for a country seeking to institutionalize democracy and pluralism.

The current parliamentís spring session will be its last, and it too will wriggle its fingers into the clauses and articles of the countryís founding document. There are electoral representation systems to be tweaked, election commissions to be rebalanced, vice-premiersí positions to invent and plebiscite results to write into law.

Some of the opposition would like to see more far-reaching amendments, changes which would weaken the post of president and slap checks on the executive branch.

The spring elections may not give them enough seats in parliament to win those changes, but the ruling party looks set to lose its dominance. That is welcome, for many reasons. To begin with, a more balanced parliament would give the constitution some breathing room; perhaps future parliaments will require more political momentum to push through ill-considered amendments than todayís rubber-stamp legislature.