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What kind of President is envisaged by the new Constitution?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 27
The Georgian public does not receive much information about the ongoing work on the new Constitution. From time to time either Chairman of the State Constitutional Commission Avtandil Demetrashvili or some other members of it make statements but they do not tell us much. What we know for sure is that the draft proposed by the Commission has not been accepted by ruling party and the National Movement member of the Commission has been assigned to prepare a new draft. The main reason for the disagreement is what role the President should play under the new Constitution.

The State Constitutional Commission was formed in 2009 after several months of opposition protest rallies. It was a kind of a bone to stop the dog from barking. It was also a kind of a courtesy to the West, to show that the administration was committed to democracy, maybe not real democracy but something looking similar.

In the 1995 Constitution Georgia was made a Presidential Republic, but after the Rose Revolution serious amendments were made increasing Presidential power even further. These were criticised by the opposition and international institutions, but Saakashvili and his team explained such changes by the need to make speedy reforms in the country. However six years have now passed since these amendments were made and the President still has all these enhanced powers. The opposition and the West have demanded balance between the powers of each branch of government, which means increasing the power of Parliament, strengthening the independence of the courts and enhancing local government.

There are many speculations about what will happen to Saakashvili when his Presidential term expires. Will he give up frontline politics or stay in it as PM? His supporters obviously want the Constitutional amendments to give him the chance to stay in power for an unlimited time. From this point of view it would be more beneficial for him if the Presidency becomes weaker and the PM’s position is given more power. Initially the Constitutional Commission moved in this direction, suggesting that the President should become an arbitrator whose main job would be to ensure the balance between the branches of government, but this is the proposal unacceptable for the administration.

Recently another draft of the Constitution has been discussed in which the President would have no right to dismiss Parliament, issue financial or taxation decrees or call elections. Conversely the President would take more executive responsibility in other areas, which would mean replacing the post of Prime Minister with that of Vice President, who if necessary would substitute for the President. Avtandil Demetrashvili has stated that in this draft the President's powers will not diminish at all, indeed they will increase as he will remain Head of Government as well as Head of State and set the country’s internal and external policy.

It is rather difficult to see at this point what kind of Constitution will be adopted and what the authorities want it to look like. Most likely the amendments to the Constitution, or rather drafting a completely new Constitution, will become a serious matter of discussion only when the local elections are over.