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Majority overrides veto

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, March 24
Georgian Parliament overrode President’s veto on surveillance bill, which was sent to the parliament with presidential remarks on March 21.

It was not difficult for the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) to override the veto, as they have 116 MPs in the 150-member parliament and they needed at least 76 votes to override the presidential veto.

The final draft of the surveillance law envisages establishment of a covert surveillance agency under the supervision of the State Security Service.

The agency will manage and oversee the surveillance of phone communications, computer systems, post-office transfers, covert audio, photo and video surveillance.

The head of the agency will be appointed by the Prime Minister of Georgia, after which a seven-member commission will select three possible candidates.

While vetoing the bill, the President had two main remarks. According to him the legislative package includes a number of controversial issues.

“We have identified two major shortcomings: firstly, independence of the Agency, according to the draft law, is not ensured; therefore, it contradicts the decision of the Constitutional Court, made on this issue. Secondly, this draft law imposes unnecessary and unpredictable costs to the communication companies,” Margvelashvili stated after he vetoed the bill.

The discussions over the draft came after the Constitutional Court of Georgia dismissed the previous model of surveillance, with the Interior Ministry and Data Protection agency having access to wiretapping, and stressed that law enforcers must not have a direct access to the process due to the conflict of interests.

The court set March 31 2017 as the deadline for implementing the court decision and replacing the existing surveillance regulations with new ones.

Ana Dolidze, President’s parliamentary secretary, believes that by overriding the veto, the country lost the chance of establishing new system.

“We have missed the opportunity, which would make our citizens feel safe. We have lost the chance to create such a system where the lives of our citizens would be protected and untouchable,” Dolidze told journalists after the parliament session.

Member of the parliamentary minority Movement for Freedom-European Georgia, Davit Bakradze stated that the majority disappointed its voters, which had hope that “surveillance and eavesdropping would be over.”

Legal Issues Committee Head, Eka Beselia said the Presidential Administration made “illogical and disrespectful” statements after the veto was overridden.

“This was not only the veto overriding process. It was the day which revealed serious problems. Most of all I am concerned by the attitude of the President’s Administration towards the parliament… President’s remarks showed mistrust towards the legislative body,” she said.