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New Constitutional Commission without President

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 12
Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze, has announced that a Constitutional Commission will be created soon and he will chair it himself.

The statement meant that President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s offer of the creation of such a Commission co-chaired by him, the Prime Minister and the Parliament Speaker had been turned down.

Kobakhidze stressed that the Commission, as earlier in 2013, would be created in Parliament and would be composed of all interested parties, referring to the President’s representative, majority, minority, experts, civil sector and the people from constitutional institutions.

The Parliament Speaker, who is an expert on constitutional law, also vowed that none of the amendments would be introduced in the final version of Georgia’s Constitution if it were negatively assessed by the Venice Commission.

He continued on to say that the Constitutional Commission would start working until the end of December and it would elaborate the draft of the Constitutional amendment before April 30, 2017.

“After we represent the draft large-scaled discussions and hearings in the legislative body will take place around the amendments before the Parliament votes for it,” Kobakhidze added.

The President’s administration has immediately responded to the statement, stressing the format of the Commission was incorrectly chosen.

The President’s political advisor, Pikria Chikhradze, highlighted the presence of the President in the Commission would boost the legitimacy of the group and ensure large-scaled involvement in the discussions, as unlike the Parliament chair and many in the group, the President does not represent the interests of any political party.

The President’s administration has not yet announced whether their representative would be in the Commission or not.

The Parliamentary opposition United National Movement members have stated that the refusal to involve the President in the Commission’s activities indicated that the ruling team planned to introduce such changes in the country’s main law that ensured the President to be approved by Parliament and not elected by the people in 2018.

A member of the non-Parliamentary opposition Free Democrats, Shalva Shavgulidze, stressed that the 4-month period for presenting the draft of the Constitutional changes was insufficient and the named time might be a hint that the majority had already decided what might be changed in the Constitution.

The ruling Georgian Dream faction leader in Parliament, Mamuka Mdinaradze, refuted the opposition’s statements and highlighted that discussing Constitutional changes was the direct obligation of the legislative body and not the President or the Prime Minister.

He also stated that Kobakhidze’s promise on the Venice Commission’s role in the process of amending the Constitution was “unprecedented”, indicating the current ruling team aimed to adopt only necessary changes in the law.

The Constitutional Commission was also established in 2013, under the Georgian Dream Government, as the authorities believed the amendments put in the Constitution under the United National Movement leadership in 2010 included drawbacks and caused a misbalance between different state institutions.

The previous Constitutional Commission was also chaired by the parliament speaker and included 57 members-heads of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, Public Defender, President’s Parliamentary Representative, majority and minority members, experts, and civil society representatives.

At least 113 votes are needed in the 150-member legislative body for approving the constructional amendments.

The ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party has 116 lawmakers in Parliament, more than enough to approve the Constitutional amendments.