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Parliamentary republic: opposition demand

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, August 18
Since regaining its independence at the end of the last century and establishing the presidential institution, the opposition has continually been demanding change to a parliamentary republic. Even today an alternative public constitutional commission is trying to promote a parliamentary republic model for the country. However there is much controversy associated with it – both among experts and in the general population. The public constitutional commission thinks that the presidential governance has not adjusted to the Georgian national character which still seems based on the soviet mentality. This commission thinks that until there is protection of the country's presidential or semi presidential governance, then Georgia cannot avoid the existence of an authoritarian form of governance. This will create consequences including politicisation of state structures such as the police, courts as well as the prosecutor’s office; redistribution of property; terrorising free media and free business; abuse of human rights and ignoring different freedoms; and what it most significant, a change of the administration by revolution.

Therefore the authors of the new model suggest an alternative constitution, which will on one side stabilise the government and on the other provide the political opposition with enough levers to influence governmental activities and exercise substantial and timely control. The commission thinks that such a system will promote national consolidation, economic development and transformation of society into one with liberal democratic principles.

However, there exist a number of counter arguments. Supporters of the presidential model think that under the current circumstances, when almost one quarter of the country’s territory is occupied by an enemy and there is a permanent threat of repeated aggression, the existence of a stable and strong administration is absolutely essential. A second argument is that the parliamentary model is acceptable for a country with a high political culture and long statehood tradition, in which there exists strong political parties and different social forces with a lot of experience of cooperation and compromise, whereas it is not suitable for a young country with strong centralised power. A further argument is that Georgia’s economic and social development is not yet complete. To implement such reforms and achieve the logical result is impossible under parliamentary model conditions.

The parties' popularity-rooted motives hinder the implementation of unpopular, but necessary for the country’s future, moves. The presidential model facilitates to directing country into the future prospects. We can also argue that Georgia’s population is only now in the process of being educated about the political models and proposed constitutional changes. Until now, Georgians have only identified government according to the personalities.

Yet another argument is based on the Georgia’s recent experience: from 1992 to1995 Georgia was practically a parliamentary republic and these years were most painful for the country. The country has more or less stabilised since 1995 when the country moved into the presidential model.

The new model suggested by the state constitutional commission comprises a mixture of systems, suggesting a stronger PM together with a publicly elected president who has the right to discharge parliament. Some opposition members advocate that final decision should be taken by the people themselves and are demanding a referendum/plebiscite. A recent NDI poll showed that almost half of those questioned prefer the presidential system. However supporters of the constitutional republic think that the question in the NDI poll was phrased rather confusingly and had it been simpler to understand, most of those asked would prefer a parliamentary republic. Supporters of the parliamentary model also stressed that most of the population would not like to see the current president of Georgia as the head of the state in a different form – i.e. as the PM.