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Unexpected consensus on Draft Constitution

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, October 4
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili held a special meeting with members of the United National Movement (UNM) to discuss the new constitutional reform at his presidential palace on September 30. Explaining the procedural issues in the amendment passed at the first hearing by Parliament, the President told the group that the country had been moving to a more complicated system based on several power centres which would have been a disaster just after the Rose Revolution. “Today Georgia is the centre of democratisation and modernisation in the entire post-Soviet space, with a more refined ruling system enabling the country to move to the new constitutional model,” stated the President.

Stressing that no-one can tell us what to do and how to build our country, Saakashvili said the Government of Georgia should certainly consider the positive experience of other countries but not repeat their mistakes. Under the new model most of the presidential powers from late 2013 will be transferred to the Prime Minister. The President will retain some authority and still be elected by popular vote. “There have been recommendations to make the President like the Queen of England – which is unacceptable for us. A country with 20% occupied territory facing serious challenges should have a strong, effective head of state,” the President commented.

During the consultations between the Parliament majority and minority on the same day, the sides somehow managed to agree on a number of issues. The newly elected President, after election to this position, shall not occupy a high position in his/her Party but can remain a member. For the conclusion of international agreements regarding accession to international organisations, and on issues of military operations and territorial integrity, the President shall need the countersignature of the Prime Minister.

Consideration of the Draft Law on Changes and Amendments to the Constitution of Georgia was the first issue in the agenda of the plenary session of parliament on October 1. Claiming that all the consultations around the state constitutional reform aim to raise political awareness in our country, the project was passed at the second hearing of the Plenary Sitting with 125 votes for and 4 against.

MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili, who said the changes within the constitutional draft aim to make Saakashvili Prime Minister and has doubts about the strength of the new Presidential post called the bilateral consultations “a fruitless farce”. “The ruling party seems to be considering the President’s post for a non-ambitious politician like the Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze, but their political games will end in 2012,” Tsagareishvili told the media.

The Parliamentary majority wondered why the constitutional changes should be based on the recommendations of the Venice Commission rather than Georgian tradition. “The opinion of the Venice Commission is definitely important for us but the political technologies which may encourage unhealthy political agreements should be appraised by the country undergoing these reforms,” Davit Darchiashvili, Chairman of the Committee on European Integration told his colleagues. Claiming that it is up to elections to define the political fate of Georgia, majority MP Petre Tsiskarishvili scolded the Parliament minority for encouraging the non-Parliamentary opposition. MP Gia Tortladze called the constitutional changes a step forward for democratisation expressed in a balance between the Parliament and the Government of Georgia.

Most Georgian political analysts weren’t at all optimistic about possible agreement between the sides about the constitutional reforms from the very beginning. “Georgia lacks the political culture,” Soso Tsiskarishvili had told The Messenger when discussions of the issue were just beginning and later added that this very model of the constitution was created for the political power in our country to match the President’s will.

Despite the fact that the analyst Nika Chitadze claimed that Georgia needed new faces in Government and the engagement of experienced politicians even in reforms would be quite beneficial for our country, no local consultations and international recommendations have so far had a great influence on the new state constitutional draft. The next hearing of the issue will be in Parliament next week. The Venice Commission will introduce the final recommendations in the middle of October but unfortunately no particular changes will be possible to the new constitutional draft at that time.