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How often can you amend the Constitution?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, September 15
Despite the fact that a special State Commission is writing a new Georgian Constitution the existing it is still being regularly amended. The latest amendment involves transferring Parliament, in part, to the second city of Georgia, Kutaisi. Furthermore the members of opposition parties who won seats in Parliament at the last election but refused to take them as a protest against the manipulation of the elections are to be allowed to reclaim their mandates, an unprecedented move. Most opposition members are against this particular amendment, but the ruling party has a sufficient majority to do whatever it wants regardless of what anyone else may think.

These amendments were initiated by President Saakashvili in July this year during official debates in Parliament. Although the Parliamentary opposition protest about the frequency of these Constitutional changes the majority does not care. Opposition MP Gia Tsagareishvili has stated that in the last three years 16 Constitutional amendments have been introduced. Fellow MP Guram Chakhvadze from the National Democratic Party has also loudly complained about the frequent emendation of the Constitution.

MP Levan Vephkhvadze from the Christian Democrats has protested that Parliament is amending the current Constitution without consulting the State Constitutional Commission. Vephkhvadze thinks that moving Parliament to Kutaisi is very much connected with creating a two-chamber legislature and this needs to be discussed by the Commission. Opposition members are also interested in how much it will cost to transfer parts of Parliament’s work to Kutaisi. They say this will involve extra expenses for premises, personnel, transportation, communication systems and infrastructure which would create an extra burden for Georgia’s budget.

The amendment envisages moving the Parliament chamber from Tbilisi to Kutaisi from January 1, 2012. At present it is planned that Parliamentary sessions will be held in Kutaisi but committee meetings, in which most of the legislative work is done, will be held in Tbilisi. Leader of the Parliamentary minority Giorgi Targamadze thinks that moving half of Parliament to Kutaisi is part of a vendetta the current administration is pursuing against Tbilisi citizens, who do not understand Saakashvili’s modernist and reformist methods. The ruling party has, of course, met such a supposition with indignation.

Allowing people who voluntarily refused to enter Parliament to return to it has no analogy in Constitutional history, but Deputy Minister of Justice Dimitri Dzagnidze explains it by referring to the peculiar situation existing in Georgian politics. You never know - maybe we will see some familiar opposition faces back in Parliament soon. There is some speculation that Konstantine Gamsakhurdia is considering such an option, though he has not commented on this.