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Parliament overrides president's veto

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 31
The President of Georgia vetoed the amnesty bill. However, the parliament overcame the veto and presumably the large scale amnesty bill will still encompass a significant part of Georgian prisoners– regular and political. The president strongly criticized the parliament’s action and called the decision shameful and dangerous.

The bill on amnesty envisages granting full exemption from punishment from those inmates that have committed petty crimes. Those 190 inmates who have been recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners at the beginning of December will be released. Prison terms were reduced for all inmates depending on the severity of the crime, except for those having been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Before vetoing the bill, the president explained that the list of political prisoners raised doubts, as none of the international organizations have confirmed that political prisoners exist in Georgia. According to him, the list also envisions freeing prisoners who are in jail for pedophilia, treason and coup-organizing charges.

“Amnesty takes place when there is a stable situation in the country. In such a case you can empty the penitentiary system of its prisoners, but if you are letting the majority of the most dangerous criminals out, then you are acting in a very wrong way…let the Parliament take responsibility for releasing pedophiles, coup organizers and Russian agents. I will not sign it until it makes sense,” stated the president.

The parliament with 91 votes to 24 votes against overturned the presidential veto and thus authorizing release of more than 3,000 prisoners, as well as a reduction of prison terms for thousands of others.

At least 89 votes, three-fifths majority of sitting lawmakers were needed to overturn the veto. The Georgian Dream coalition has 83 legislators. Some representatives from the United National Movement also voted to overcome the president’s veto.

“Today the Georgian Parliament set a precedent that one can betray his own country. This is very dangerous, it is shameful and carries significant danger for the country,” Saakashvili said, adding that through the amnesty, Russian spies will be released and this will encourage others to commit the same crimes.

The minority representatives also addressed the parliament’s decision and underscored that the country will have serious problems regarding the criminal activity.

“Such decision was made in the 90s and it nearly destroyed the country. Currently, through the amnesty Georgia also faces this threat,” General Secretary of UNM, Vano Merabishvili said.

Fellow minority MPs emphasized that Russia will be very pleased about the amnesty and for possible upcoming unrest inside the country.

According to the majority representatives, the parliament’s decision was fair.

“Parliament proved that it is not dependent on the president’s will. The president who goes against the parliament and his people will always be defeated,” Eka Beselia MP said.

Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili assessed Saakashvili’s remarks as “hysteria” and said that the president was irritated about two things: the fact that the political prisoners will be released and that the Georgian Dream has enough of a majority in the parliament to override the presidential veto. He also underscored that more inmates have been released through presidential pardon over the past one year, then the parliament’s amnesty envisaged.

Interior Minister, Irakli Gharibashivili emphasized that if those inmates released through the amnesty commit a crime in the future they will be strictly punished. On December 28, Gharibashvili addressed the parliament to remove certain articles from the amnesty bill. According to him, the articles mainly concerned espionage and drug related charges.

“However, the parliament did not share our recommendations and made a hasty decision,” Gharibashvili stated. Despite the fact, Gharibashvili is sure that the amnesty will create no problems for Georgia.

According to sociologist, Iago Kachakachishvili, overcoming the veto might be the beginning of cohabitation between the presidential and parliamentary branches.

“The process revealed that the parliament can make different decisions and after the fact the president might be more careful regarding the legislative body,” Kachkachishvili stated.

According to philosopher, Zaza Piralishvili the fact was positive however, it revealed some threats.

“The fact that the parliament made an independent decision it is positive. However, we have seen that 91 MPs voted for the overcoming the veto when the coalition Georgian Dream has 83 MPs. If more UNM MPs move towards the coalition there will create threat of a single party parliament what is not positive for Georgian interests,” Piralishvili said.

After overcoming the veto, the bill we be sent to the president again for signing. In the case that the president denies signing it, the parliament chair has the right to sign it and the amnesty will go into power.

Usupashvili is ready to sign it in the case that the president refuses.