The messenger logo

Saakashvili moves parliament to Kutaisi

By Messenger Staff
Friday, May 20
There will be yet another amendment introduced to the Georgian constitution. This amendment would mean that after the 2012 parliamentary elections, the Georgian parliament will move from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. A new parliament is being built already in Kutaisi and there is already speculation that the celebration and parade for Independence Day on May 26, 2012 will be held in Kutaisi by President Saakashvili. Despite the assertion of the current administration there are many in the country that oppose and criticize this decision either in the political spectrum or in general society. The political debates and possible political confrontation over the issue are still to come.

President Saakashvili has his arguments justifying this move. He claims that the countryís geography is being altered. Before everything was concentrated on Tbilisi and this is understandable but from the point of view of development of the country the general tendency in the world is of moving the countryís centers towards the sea. Therefore creating centers in the western parts of Georgia is in compliance with those tendencies. Accordingly the country is creating two additional centers. Batumi will be the economical and financial center and Kutaisi will be the parliamentary capital. Some government institutions have already moved into that direction.

While considering the general tendency of moving towards the sea, one has to remember that unfortunately a large part of coastline on the Black Sea has been lost by Georgia and there are Russian occupational forces there. Formally the issue of moving parliament into Kutaisi as a subject for countrywide public discussion has been announced. These types of public discussions have a soviet flavor. The opposition thinks that it would be more appropriate to hold a referendum thereby listening to the populationís opinion. But the ruling authorities responded negatively to this idea. The leader of the majority of the parliament Petre Tsiskarishvili considered this issue not to be of significant importance to hold an official referendum and suggested that parliament is exactly the body which should take responsibility and adopt this decision.

Initially the parliament's move to Kutaisi was due to be a partial one. Only plenary sessions would have been held there whereas the rest of the parliamentary activities would have been carried out in Tbilisi. At that stage the ruling authorities assured the opposition that such an arrangement would not cause any difficulties in the smooth running of these functions. However now, when there has been a decision to move the entire parliament to Kutaisi, the main reason cited by the authorities is the fact that parliament would be split! According to the new version of the Georgian constitution which, will be enforced in 2013, Georgia is moving to a parliamentary republic model, so the functioning of government in Tbilisi when parliament resides in Kutaisi would create some technical difficulties. Some analysts suggest that this creates a basis for also moving the government in Kutaisi. So at the end of the day there will be only the President left in Tbilisi. Obviously he will not be Saakashvili as his two term presidency expires in 2013. So someone else will inherit Saakashvili's huge presidential palace but presumably without any real power in his hands. There are now rumours spreading across Georgia that there is an idea to privatize and sell the parliament building in Tbilisi. Some investors from foreign countries have apparently already visited the building.

As for moving the parliament into Kutaisi, Saakashvili is describing this as a fundamental change of the Georgian mentality. According to him there is no way that all the problems in the country can be decided on one street, Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi.

Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II on hearing the idea of moving parliament to Kutaisi advised the politicians to more seriously reconsider the move; however his advice was ignored by the ruling power.

The opposition demands to see a breakdown of financial figures showing how much it would cost to move. But so far no figures have been made available. Meanwhile, before the parliament is moved to Kutaisi, the current parliament location of Rustaveli Avenue will be hosting yet another protest action tomorrow. Until now, this has been the street and this has been the city where Georgia's history was being created.