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Who should elect the President?

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, March 1
The issue who should elect the Georgian President has become a subject of discussion across the Georgian political spectrum. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), on February 26th Iago Tsiklauri, Gela Mestiashvili and Iana Khutsishvili submitted a proposed referendum: “Do you think that the President of Georgia should be elected by Parliament?”

According to Interpressnews, Khutsishvili is the chairperson of the Association of Women’s Unity. Claiming neither she nor her group members belong to any political party, Khutsishvili said since the country is moving to a parliamentary model it would be “more logical” if Parliament elects the President. She said the past 20 years have proved that the presidential model does not work in Georgia as virtually all power is concentrated in one person.

CEC spokesperson Eka Azarashvili said the CEC has registered the proposal but the three-member initiative group has to gather 200,000 signatures in three months after the initial registration for it to be considered by the CEC. If the requisite number of signatures are gathered in three months the CEC will check the signatures' validity, issue a conclusion and send the documents to the President for further consideration.

However, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the oppositional United National Movement (UNM) both agree that it is the public's responsibility to elect the President, not MPs'.

Georgian Dream member and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Issues Committee Vakhtang Khmaladze responded to the proposal by insisting that constitutional changes cannot be made through referendum. Emphasizing that according to the Constitution the Georgian President should be elected directly by the public, Khmaladze suggested holding a plebiscite to find out public opinion over the issue. He added that even with the results of a plebiscite the Constitution remains the supreme document of the country.

Defence Minister Irakli Alasania said the public should define both the government model and the method of electing the President.

Republican Party member Levan Berdzenishvili said coalition members have not yet discussed this issue but he personally thinks that Parliament should elect the President, not the people. He added that changes to the Constitution might be considered.

UNM members think the Georgian people should have more participation in the decision-making process, rather than less. Mikheil Machavariani said when 20% of Georgian territories are occupied a referendum has no legal power. He said if this issue goes to a plebiscite it should only be after the presidential election this autumn.

According to sociologist Iago Kachkachishvili, although the powers of the President will be restricted under the parliamentary model of governance, public participation in the election process is important. Thus he said that the people should elect the President through direct elections.