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What will be the fate of the [old] parliament building?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, October 18
The question of where the Georgian Parliament will be located still remains one of the pressing topics in the country. There are still controversies over where the parliament might be located– will it be in the capital of Georgia or in Kutaisi as it had been planned by the previous government.

One thing which is obvious is that the first sitting of the parliament will be held in Kutaisi in the newly-built parliament building on October 21, at 1 pm. However, the irony it is that the majority of the parliament will be occupied by the people who were against the parliament’s removal from Tbilisi to Kutaisi in the first place. Presumably, this will be one of the topics of hot debate in the Kutaisi Parliament between the ruling Georgian Dream and the opposition United National Movement.

The idea of moving the parliament to Kutaisi belonged to the UNM. President Saakashvili laid out his arguments justifying this move. He claimed that the country’s 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 moving the country’s centers towards the sea. Therefore creating centers in the western parts of Georgia was in compliance with those tendencies. Accordingly, the country is creating two additional centers. Batumi would be the economical and financial center and Kutaisi would be the parliamentary capital. The President also claimed that moving the parliament from Tbilisi to Kutaisi would promote benefits for the second largest city of Georgia and would significantly assist Kutaisi’s future advancement. The idea was applauded by UNM members and certain changes had been urgently carried out in the constitution.

After making the decision, the construction process of the new parliament building was hastened. On the other hand, the abandonment process of the former, historical parliament building in Tbilisi was underway. A major session hall, as well as other smaller premises were stripped: Chairs, tables, desks equipment, voting systems and loudspeakers… everything was removed. Rumors circulated among business circles that the building was sold.

There are controversies among the Georgian Dream concerning the location of the parliament building as well. Representatives of the coalition share the view that the Parliament building should exist in Tbilisi. However, it is still unclear whether it will be in the former parliament building or some other. Some coalition members have underscored that the new parliament building in Kutaisi might be delivered to the university or there will be two parliament buildings in the country.

According to the candidate on the post of Minister of Economy from the coalition, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the former parliament building’s privatization has been suspended

“The fact that such historical building was privatized is shameful… of course, the development of Kutaisi is important, but artificial steps are not needed for this,” Kvirikashvili said.

GD coalition representative, Tina Khidasheli, voiced the sum which was spent on the new parliament building.

“GEL 340 million was spent practically on nothing when there is such a hard economic situation in the country,” Khidasheli said, adding that in the case of moving the parliament to Kutaisi, the budget will have additional “huge expenses.”

“When you move 150 MPs to another city where they do not have their own apartments, when you move some other people that are essential for the appropriate functioning of parliamentary procedures, lots of money will be required from the state budget,” Khidasheli said.

Nominee on the post of the Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili, emphasized that it will be hard for the parliament members and other officials to work appropriately in Kutaisi. According to him, changes should be carried out in the constitution and parliament should function in Tbilisi.

Until the problem is solved, the new parliament building in Kutaisi is waiting for the first sitting. However, it is a question how ready is it for the aim?

It has been mentioned by the collation members that the new parliament building lacks equipment and conditions for appropriate functioning. The coalition representative, Manana Kobakhidze hoped that the situation will be improved by October 21.

“We are going to Kutaisi on October 20 to make sure that everything is ready for the first sitting and that the building is technically capable for the event,” Kobakhidze said.