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Changing the Constitution

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, June 3
The ruling party and Parliamentary opposition have started working on the text of a new Constitution. The process of forming the new Constitutional Commission is underway. It has been announced that Avtandil Demetrashvili, a well-known constitutional lawyer, will be the head of the Commission.

The non-Parliamentary opposition is categorically against making constitutional changes in such a hasty way. It does not doubt that the Constitution needs serious amendment, but believes other priorities are more urgent. It has described the Government’s sudden interest in changing the Constitution as a PR stunt, a means of wasting time and distracting people from the fundamental issue of the President’s resignation.

The Constitution we have at present was adopted in 1995, at the end of the term of the Parliament elected in 1992, though these could hardly be called elections as the leaders of all the parties which had contested them were admitted to Parliament afterwards as a reward. Several dozen political entities, some of them ‘one man parties’, were represented in the legislature. As then Head of State Eduard Shevardnadze did not control Parliament it was suggested that a Constitution be drawn up which would create both a strong Parliament and a strong Presidency.

No significant amendments were introduced into this Constitution until 2004. Then, on the demand of President Saakashvili who had gained power in the Rose Revolution, radical changes were made to it, greatly increasing Presidential power. “Saakashvili tried, not factually but formally through the Constitution, to become the sole leader of the country. Now the Constitution is simply a cover and the Government plays the role of scapegoat. Everything is decided by one man - a President who bears no responsibility,” thinks Vakhtang Khmaladze, one of the authors of the 1995 Constitution.

The 2004 amendments were criticised by experts and international bodies such as the Venice Commission. However the revolutionary administration ignored their criticism and satisfied its lust for power. Since there was enough of a majority in Parliament to pass them the introduction of new amendments became quite frequent. So today the constitution really needs either very serious amendment or to be rewritten completely.

Currently the possibility of changing the political system from a Presidential republic into a Parliamentary one is being discussed. Some opposition members are concerned that this would give President Saakashvili the opportunity to become PM like Putin did and thus stay in power forever. That is why the non-Parliamentary opposition insists on getting rid of Saakashvili first and introducing constitutional amendments later. However what is urgently needed is not just constitutional amendments but fundamental changes of the election code and the whole system. If politicians are only as good as the people who elect them, their performance is only as good as the system they work in will allow.