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US watches constitutional amendments

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, April 25
Nicolas Berliner, the Deputy Ambassador of the United States to Georgia, says it is important that all comments on constitutional amendments be taken into consideration.

He stressed the constitutional amendments are important for Georgia's long-term prospects.

"We are watching this process. Talks and debates are under way; the process is not completed. The Venice Commission will discuss and present its recommendations. This is a very important process for Georgia,” the deputy ambassador said.

The comment came after the special state commission - initially composed of 73 members - completed work on the draft of amendments.

The document will now be sent to Parliament for further discussions and approval.

Before it is sent, the biggest part of the opposition and the part of NGOs left the commission in protest, stressing the majority didn’t foresee their remarks.

A day before the final session of the Commission, the Chairman of the Commission, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, removed all the party members from the Commission who refused to participate in the final session.

Kobakhidze issued the order on April 21, according to which 13 members of parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties were removed from the Commission.

Consequently, the composition of the Commission was defined as 60 members instead of 73 members at the final session, and therefore the decision-making quorum was also altered.

At the final session of the State Constitutional Commission, the draft constitutional amendments were approved by 43 votes against 8.

“Another sign of the authoritarian regime,” Dimitri Lortkipanidze, a member of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia, said.

“The chairman of the Constitutional Commission should have at least sent a written notification to us before doing this and the Commission members should not have been arbitrarily removed from the Commission. In terms of ethics, it would be better to have some communication," Lortkipanidze said.

The Constitutional Commission was created by the current ruling Georgian Dream party for the second time [firstly in 2013] in order to amend the Constitutional changes adopted under the previous ruling United National Movement government in 2010.