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New functions of the PM are cause for intrigue

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, September 21
The main intrigue of the new draft constitution is the increased functions of the future PM. This is the overall feeling expressed by independent analysts. Meanwhile, the Georgian Parliament is preparing to adopt the new constitution in a hasty manner so that the parliament will probably not be waiting for the final decision of Venice commission, which should be finalised by the middle of October. This causes some questions because, overall, Venice commission reacted positively to the new constitution. So, why such a rush?

As it is known, in 2004, right after the Rose Revolution, the Venice commission did not like the amendments introduced into the Georgian constitution according to which too much power was concentrated in the hands of the President. This is the reason why the current amendments are welcomed by the Venice commission as they decrease presidential powers. Observers are unanimous in their opinion that the 2004 constitution was amended deliberately to fit Saakashvili as a new president of Georgia. Though many commentators today observe that the current amendments to the constitution are also made to fit Saakashvili; not as a president but as the future PM.

The ruling authorities claim that new constitution envisages many changes for balancing powers among the president, PM and the parliament. But in reality much of the power in the constitution to be adopted goes into the hands of the PM. Of course, this is not against the Venice commission's conclusions. Europeans support the creation of the strong position of the PM, as they think the situation in Georgia is not yet suited to having a clear cut parliamentary system. So, a strong PM as well as a strong President are desirable for the Venice commission. Moreover, according to the commission, it is better to have a strong PM rather than a strong President, because the PM is accountable to parliament whereas the President is not.

But the intrigue lies in the fact that the opposition, as well as the population, suspects that everything is done in a similar manner to that of Russia two years ago. President Saakashvili wants to become PM. The opposition is vehemently against such developments and is doing its utmost to frustrate these plans of the ruling authorities. The opposition even demanded to introduce in the constitution a special clause forbidding former president to take the position of the PM. The ruling majority however is categorically against such limitations.

The Venice commission members state that, in the European constitutions, there are no such similar limitations on the former president becoming the PM. But commission members mentioned that this is a specifically Georgian problem and that any kind of consensus would be appreciated. However, the commission itself has washed its hands of the affair. We can say already that no limitations in the constitution will be accepted as the ruling majority in the parliament will take the decision with which it is most comfortable. As the New Rights member Manana Nachkebia has said, Saakashvili, who cannot continue as a president after his term expires, will have all the powers he currently has, but in the position of PM.

The Venice commission thinks that a strong PM is justified when it remains under the control of the parliament. At present, the parliament can exercise its right to discharge the acting PM and substitute him/her if necessary without any problems. However, the final version of the current draft constitution envisages some rather complicated procedures for the discharging of the PM and appointing a new one. The Venice commission suggests that, for discharging the acting PM it should not be necessary for 60% of the MPs to vote in favour of doing so, but rather a simple majority. The opposition also demands that in the event of changes to 1/3 of the government, it should be submitted for endorsement to the parliament. However, everything depends on the good will of the authorities and all will become clear in the near future.