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Will Saakashvili Putinise himself?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, October 7
Constitutional reform is coming to end. The ruling party is taking every step it can to accelerate the process of adopting the draft constitution even though it is not due to come into force until the end of 2013. Meanwhile the non-parliamentary Opposition challenges the new version of constitution labeling it unacceptable and destructive. Opposition pathos is emphasised by the fact that they see in the new constitution conditions that would allow the current president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili to become Prime Minister as the second term of his presidency expires in 2013. According to the new constitution the PM will receive some of the president’s powers and responsibilities. Practically, the Opposition is upset with the draft constitution because of Saakashvili’s chance of continuing to govern. Venice commission experts agree that the possibility exists even though the constitution seems to be more balanced and is a step towards a parliamentary republic. But Saakashvili's possible Putinisation is very really irritating for the Opposition. The article ‘Pulling a Putin’ in the Foreign Policy expresses its confidence that democratic reforms should be reinforced and Georgians should be given right to choose their future leaders themselves, while highlighting some of the achievements of the Saakashvili administration together with its shortcomings.

Georgia desperately needs the generous and honourable step of its leader to relinquish his position voluntarily and resign for good. This would indeed be a great achievement for Georgian democracy. However while it is unlikely that things will develop this way it is important to think of how Georgia’s western friends would conduct themselves in this situation.

Some members of the Opposition naively believe that West will not allow Saakashvili to Putinise himself. Meanwhile Saakashvili and his team emphasise the National Movement fully intends to stay in power beyond 2013. The fact is that National Movement leadership is very scared of losing power – it would be catastrophic for their elite commented republican leader Davit Usupashvili. With parliamentary elections scheduled for 2012 and which will be conducted under the current constitution; perhaps the most crucial thing is that the suggested amendments demanded by the Opposition are included in the elections code, most importantly the introduction of a biometric voting system.