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More work on the Constitution, if ‘work’ is the term

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, August 4
At last we have found the answer. The Georgian Constitution is to blame for all the ills the country faces. If it were not for this ‘ugly’ Constitution everything would be perfect in Georgia. Therefore Constitutional changes are urgently needed to bring the country closer to democratic standards and balance the different branches of the government.

Everyone keeps talking about these changes - the administration, the opposition and our foreign friends. So the question rises: does a Constitution corrupt a Government, or a Government corrupts a Constitution?

Under the decree of President Saakashvili a special commission on Constitutional change has been established, however the non-Parliamentary opposition has refused to participate in it and founded a parallel public commission. Therefore different parties and different groups of people are working separately on drafts of Constitutional changes. All these tremendous efforts should yield results and the people will be given different texts to discuss. A new wave of Constitutional debates will start in Georgia. Whether this will have any practical effect on anyone’s life we will have to wait and see.

During his Parliamentary debates President Saakashvili stated that the goal of the Constitutional reforms would be the separation of the different branches of government, the legislature, executive and judiciary. US Vice President Biden also recommended that an independent court system is established and there should be equilibrium between the executive and legislative branches. He paid special attention to guaranteeing the freedom and rights of the independent media.

Constitutional specialists say that the balance between the different branches of government enshrined in the Constitution adopted in 1995 by the Shevardnadze administration has been violated by the amendments introduced on February 6, 2004 by the Rose Revolution leadership. Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Avtandil Demetrashvili suggests that on that date the Constitution was revised considerably and new form of governance adopted in which the President’s powers were increased very considerably. It has been suggested that abolishing the February 6, 2004 amendments would be enough. However Demetrashvili challenges this approach, suggesting that if this happened all the actions taken in accordance with these amendments should be annulled, including the results of elections, laws which have been passed and so on. Furthermore the Constitution needed to be edited in any event as there are some paragraphs which create misunderstandings. Demetrashvili says that the Georgian Constitution outlined an American Presidential republic governing model, but the position of State Minister/Prime Minister exists. The Georgian President is simultaneously head of the executive branch and Head of State, which means there should be no State Minister/Prime Minister. The President is responsible for executive activity.

The non-Parliamentary opposition, which expresses its opinions through its parallel commission, is inclined to support the model of a Parliamentary republic in Georgia. “This model suggests that the President does not participate in the executive, he is Head of State, the guarantor of the unity of the country, the protection of human rights and the faithfulness to the Constitution of the different branches of state. Not a manager President but an arbiter President,” states Vakhtang Khmaladze, an expert who played a big part in preparing the 1995 Constitution. Demetrashvili says that such an approach is being considered in the state Constitutional Commission as well. The President should become strong arbiter and be distanced from the executive power, increasing the importance of the Government, which should become the highest organ of executive power. However it has not yet been decided whether this model will be adopted.

The various bodies working on Constitutional changes agree that certain amendments are needed to developing local government. There should be local government bodies at regional level as well as towns and villages. As for the occupied territories, Abkhazia will receive the highest administrative status and a very particular status will be given to the Tskhinvali region, but most probably there would be no mention of South Ossetia as such in the Constitution. Using the term South Ossetia is primarily a political concession to separatists and the adoption of it has not prevented conflict or resolved it.

So much work is to be done. However the question which many find very awkward still exists. Will the new Constitution establish peace, stability and welfare in the country?