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The President’s speech postponed

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 8
The President’s annual report to Parliament that was scheduled for February 8th has been postponed to a later as yet unnamed date on the decision of Georgian Dream. The coalition states that the President’s visit to Parliament is “unfair” until the decision on constitutional changes are made. The United National Movement (UNM) claims that Georgian Dream was not “prepared” for the President’s speech.

“We respect the Constitution, including the rights of the President, but we also respect ourselves and we want the President’s address to be made in a parliament which is empowered with appropriate authority and not in a parliament whose decisions might be unilaterally rejected by the President.” Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili stated.

The decision was described as “regrettable” by UNM representatives. According to MP Davit Bakradze the President and his party were ready for the speech.

“It seems the majority were not prepared for it.” Bakradze said. Fellow UNM MP Nugzar Tsiklauri stated that the President’s speech was “blocked" by Prime Minister Ivanishvili after the February 6th debates over the Constitution revealed Georgian Dream's weakness. A constitutional amendment has been proposed in Parliament that if passed the President will not be able to dissolve both government and parliament. The proposed amendment will be voted on in two weeks' time.

In response Georgian Dream MP Eka Beselia said that the UNM has failed to provide arguments why the minority does not agree with the changes.

During the debates held on February 6th Georgian Dream members appealed to opposition members to vote for the proposed changes “that are important for state interests and are intended to give back to Parliament those rights that were taken from the legislative body several years ago by the former government.” Georgian Dream MP Tina Khidasheli reminded those present that in 2004 when the “dictatorial” changes were introduced to the Constitution several current UNM members were against the changes.

Georgian Dream MP Manana Kobakhidze stressed that when the UNM was in power they made changes to the Constitution in favor of one man- Mikheil Saakashvili.

“Nearly 30 changes have been introduced to the Constitution since 2004-only for Saakashvili's sake.” Kobakhidze said and reminded the MPs that the Venice Commission and other international organizations have commented on the excessive powers of the Georgian President.

MP Vakhtang Khmaladze stated that those who don't support the proposed constitutional changes are encouraging the establishment of a dictatorship in the country.

UNM MPs Pavle Kublashvili and Chiora Taktakishvili said that they will not support the Georgian Dream-proposed constitutional amendment “when their colleagues are under serious pressure” – referring to UNM allegations that some of its members were pressured by the new government to quit the opposition and vote for the constitutional changes. Taktakishvili mentioned the name of the former UNM MP Marika Verulashvili who according to Taktakishvili left the UNM due to the pressure from GD members. However, Verulashvili has not made a statement concerning the issue yet. Kublashvili added that he would not vote for the changes because of “the language of ultimatums” which he said was used by PM Ivanishvili, referring to the latter’s remark that the way UNM MP's vote for the proposed amendment will determine their political futures.

Accusations concerning pressure from Georgian Dream were also voiced from UNM regional representative Tariel Londaridze.

UNM lawmakers also reiterated that they would support this proposal only if Parliament passes a constitutional amendment confirming Georgia’s pro-Western orientation. They also demand a minimum ? majority in Parliament for making changes to the Constitution.

In response Parliament chair Davit Usupashvili suggested the formation of a special constitutional commission that would work on constitutional issues as well as reflecting the Georgia’s foreign orientation in the main laws of the country.

“However, documents concerning the country’s foreign orientation have already been prepared by the chair of the Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee Tedo Japaridze. If you are really interested in the issue let's first work on these documents together. Georgian Dream will continue to think and act for the advancement and best interests of Georgia." Usupashvili told UNM members.