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Constitution to come into force in three years

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 18
On October 15, 2010 the Georgian Parliament adopted a new constitution, which will come into force in full in the autumn of 2013 following the next presidential elections, which will be held in over three years from now. Technically the constitution was adopted rather hastily even though work on the draft has been going on for about a year. Controversy still surrounds the new constitution; in particular the non parliamentary opposition is not pleased with it. Nevertheless Parliament adopted the new constitution at the third reading with 112 votes for and just 5 against.

The new constitution is the second major change since the rose revolution rules were established. The first amendments were introduced on February 6, 2004; the post of prime minister was introduced and president was granted serious extra rights, but this created an imbalance between different branches of power in the country. At that time the Opposition as well as the Venice commission criticised those amendments. Commenting about the new amendments to the constitution on October 15, 2010, President Saakashvili also touched upon the 2004 amendments. Confirming the necessity for the February 2004 changes he said that without granting the president extra powers it would not have been possible to carry out the necessary reforms and combat corruption. Now following the successful realisation of these reforms, it is possible to make new amendments to the constitution creating a different model of governance, the president assessed.

With the new constitution the country takes the big step of becoming a parliamentary republic, with a so called European style of governance. However, the opposition challenges this opinion saying that while this constitutional model decreases the presidentís rights it increases the power of the Prime Minister to the extent that the Prime Minister becomes the most influential person in the country, with even greater influence than parliament.

The opposition states that both the 2004 and 2010 amendments serve the interests of just one person and one political team. Ruling party ideologists know that granting Saakashvili a third presidential term would not go down well with his western sponsors. That is why; he is preparing for himself a comfortable transfer of power from president to prime minister. Many of todayís presidential powers will become the prime ministerís powers in 2013. The Opposition demanded a separate clause in the new constitution forbidding the president from becoming prime minister immediately after the expiration of his presidential term. Of course the ruling majority blocked this initiative, paving the way for an easy transition from president into prime minister for its leader

Formally the Georgian Parliament waited until October 15, the date on which the Venice commission would give its final decisions. As we now know, the Venice commission reported its final positive opinion on the constitution to the Georgian leadership and parliament adopted the new Georgian constitution. However the opposition is still repeating that not all the criticisms and notes of the Venice commission were considered and is complaining about the hasty adoption of the constitution which will come to force in three years. The ruling administration remarks however that the Venice commission comments were advisory in nature and not all the advice needed to be followed. The major part of the constitution will come to force when a newly elected president takes up his post in October 2013.

Crucial for the new constitution, as well as for the future prime minister, will be the parliamentary elections of 2012. The victorious body in these elections will nominate the candidate for the position of Prime Minister. So now the most important issue for both sides is the elections code and the guaranteed introduction of the amendments necessary to ensure that elections are conducted fairly, transparently and justly.