One way ticket to Kutaisi
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 23The ruling power, possessing a constitutional majority in the parliament, has adopted and finalized the decision of President Saakashvili to move the parliament to Kutaisi from 2012. The idea has been established since 2009 despite the fact that all opposition forces inside the parliament were against it. Indeed, as a show of protest, the opposition did not participate in voting.
June 22 voting in the parliament was one more example of the ruling power making moves without the slightest consideration for opposition opinion. Most of the analysts around the world think that serious constitutional changes would provide a better platform for debate, but this is not the case in Georgia. The opposition objects to moving the parliament from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. The ruling administration claims however that there were no complaints or arguments made during the public discussions with the population. It took place like in ‘good’ old soviet times where major changes in the legislation were carried out with “public support”. Parliamentary opposition demanded organizing a special referendum over the issue. But this demand was also ignored. The authorities did not respond at all, because calling the referendum would have been a risky step, as the opposition could have stirred up popular support as the moving of the parliament to Kutaisi is quite skeptically observed by the population.
The issue of moving the parliament to Kutaisi was touched upon in 2009. In an amendment to the constitution that year it was decided that after 2012 that only plenary sessions would be moved to Kutaisi. The other activities, including committee hearings, would stay in Tbilisi. However in 2011 it was decided to move the entire parliament to Kutaisi. The ruling authorities think that by moving parliament to Kutaisi the country will facilitate better development of western Georgian regions. They also suggest that Kutaisi will become yet another center of the country together with Tbilisi and Batumi. Some analysts even suggest ironically that Georgia can have a “traveling capital,” which means that after developing west Georgia parliament could be moved to Akhalkalaki – Southern Georgia, then to Telavi – Kakheti region, east Georgia and so on. But speaking seriously the analysts suggest that moving parliament to Kutaisi will distance it from the government and therefore parliament will have even less control over the executive power. It is even suggested that the government should also move to Kutaisi or that a two chamber parliament should be established with the higher chamber located in Kutaisi.
The majority, which possesses constitutional power in the parliament, are ignoring all negotiations with the opposition. Some opposition forces suggest that moving parliament into Kutaisi will further confuse the population as well as foreigners who will be unclear as to the location of the country's political centre.
There are additional questions as well concerning the cost of the move. The construction of the parliament building, the creation of appropriate infrastructure, organizing residential places for the parliament members and, presumably, relocating families to Kutaisi will all have to be paid for somehow, an extra expense that Georgia could quite possibly do without.