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Step towards a new Constitution

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 13
On May 11 the State Constitutional Commission chose which of the three suggested models it would use as the basis for the final version of the new Constitution. This process has taken ten months of intensive work. Members of the Commission and invited foreign experts and other interested people will now refine this model and if this work continues at the same pace the country will probably have a new Constitution by the end of this year.

President Saakashvili made the decision to create a Constitutional Commission in spring 2009 when the capital was almost paralysed. The step was designed to defuse the tense situation in the country. However it was also welcomed by the West, which has criticised the Georgian Government for the undemocratic amendments it made to the Constitution soon after the Rose Revolution. At first glance these amendments turned Georgia from a Presidential republic into a semi-Presidential one by instituting the post of Prime Minister but in reality Presidential power actually increased to a great extent. The West and the opposition demanded that the Government rebalance the distribution of powers among the different branches of Government, by decreasing the President’s powers and increasing those of Parliament. Some opposition parties went further, demanding a Parliamentary republic, and there were even calls for the restoration of the monarchy in Georgia.

Of the three options discussed the one selected, which was drawn up by Chair of the Constitutional Commission Avtandil Demetrashvili, proposed a kind of a compromise between Presidential and Parliamentary governance but with a serious shift in the direction of a Parliamentary republic. It was initially thought that the members of the Commission would adopt a model preserving the essence of the Presidential republic, and this became a matter of concern, but all of a sudden they supported the Demetrashvili model. This is very well adapted to current Georgian political conditions and could facilitate the further democratic development of the country by securing stability and at the same time bringing the country into line with European demands, Presidential governance being rare in Europe.

Analysts still think however that as the final draft of the Constitution has yet to be drawn up we do not yet know what the shape of the adopted Constitution will actually be. It is possible that counter-amendments might be made in a last-ditch attempt to strengthen Presidential powers. However the new model makes many changes to the local government system, decentralising power to a degree not seen before in Georgia.

The new Constitution is being adopted at a critical time for Georgia because two years from now Georgia will have Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The two terms of Saakashvili’s Presidency will expire in 2013 and he will not be able to stand again. So will he go quietly, and who will be the next President of Georgia? These are the crucial questions, but we do not yet know if two years will prove to be a short or long time in political terms. Things in Georgia change so quickly that anything can be expected. Let us refrain from making prognoses for the time being.