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New draft Constitution passed to politicians

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, July 21
On July 19, after a year of intensive work, the State Constitutional Commission agreed a final draft of the new Constitution. 44 Commission members voted for it and 3 against. This means that work on the final text is entering its last stage, and after the President approves it it will be resubmitted to Parliament. For one month it will be open for public discussion and after that Parliament will finally adopt it, presumably in September.

The opposition have criticised the draft, demanding some serious changes, but it will inevitably be adopted as the ruling party possesses a majority in Parliament. Just before the final session of the Commission ten opposition parties submitted a letter to it demanding the prolongation of the work and claiming that only the new Parliament elected in 2012 could adopt the new Constitution. Interestingly the Christian-Democratic Movement signed this document, though this party participated very actively in the work of the Commission, unlike the others who signed it. President Saakashvili has rejected this claim on the grounds that the current Parliament has enough confidence from the Georgian people to introduce necessary changes in the Constitution. He also categorically denied that snap Parliamentary or Presidential elections will be held.

It is envisaged that the Constitutional changes will be introduced gradually, in portions. The part concerning local government will come into force from January 2011 and the rest from December 1, 2012. The new version of the Georgian constitution has received the support and approval of Western experts. They say it is a European-type constitution, which cuts the President’s powers and accordingly increases Parliament’s and the Prime Minister’s. This latter point is most important. On February 6, 2004, after the Rose Revolution, amendments were made to the Georgian constitution which increased the President’s powers and these were very controversial, being criticised inside and outside the country. The opposition has been demanding the reduction of Presidential power for a long time but is still unhappy now it has actually happened. Why? In January 2013 President Saakashvili’s second term of office expires and he cannot stand for the Presidency again. Therefore becoming Prime Minister with increased powers has become the number one target of Saakashvili and his team. The Putin model could be implemented in Georgia and the opposition does not like this at all.

While the Commission was discussing the constitution Labour and some other parties demanded that Saakashvili be personally forbidden to take any governing position after being President, however this would have been against human rights principles and no such clause exists in any of the world’s constitutions. However Saakashvili can become Prime Minister only if the United National Movement remains in power after the 2012 Parliamentary elections with an absolute majority. It is too early to predict what will happen in 2012, but it is a least theoretically possible that the electors may vote for another party and remove Saakashvili from office regardless of what the new Constitution would otherwise allow him to do.

Debates on the Constitution and its possible consequences will continue. But these will be about details, because the Constitution will be adopted and the model itself is consistent with Georgia's claims to be a democracy. If the opposition want to achieve any kind of serious balance of power they should unite their efforts and seek to perfect the electoral system. In this context the demand to introducing biometric voting, which will reduce cases of manipulation to a minimum, sounds rather interesting.