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No key changes in the constitution

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 12
Members of the Georgian Dream ruling majority say that “no key changes” will be introduced in the draft of constitutional changes, as is demanded by the President, opposition and NGOs, amid a planned meeting with the opposition to achieve consensus on most disputed parts of the draft law.

Majority representative Mamuka Mdinaradze says it is unlikely that the most important changes provided in the draft, which have already been approved through two readings by Parliament, will be amended.

The statement comes after the President, NGOs and the opposition claim the key changes over the election model, the electing of the president or sharing undistributed votes among parliamentary parties are “fitted to the ruling team’s interests”.

They demand the country’s full move to proportional elections from the next parliamentary elections, the fair sharing of undistributed votes [those votes received by parties failing to appear in Parliament between the parties which overcome election threshold], direct electing of president and several others.

Mdinaradze says the draft changes adopted by parliament will be sent to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, before the ruling team, opposition and the Commission representatives meet in Strasbourg in the week to somehow achieve consensus on the draft.

Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated that his team is ready for negotiations with the opposition and accuses them of having “destructive attitude” to the process.

The opposition responds that they are also ready for talks and have a clear vision in which case they would support the constitutional changes.

The ruling team’s readiness over the consultations with the opposition was in the wake of the statement of the head of the Venice Commission that “he was disappointed” by the lack of consensus over constitutional changes between key political players in Georgia.

Gianni Buquicchio addressed the government and the opposition to reach consensus on disputed part of the changes.

The President of Georgia, who disapproves of the delay to a full move to proportional elections, the indirect presidential elections and other issues, proposes that the draft law be withdrawn from Parliament until reaching large-scale consensus over the country’s main legal code.

The head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Ana Natsvlishvili, says the draft can be returned to the second reading regime that will enable providing changes in the bill.

Bills are generally approved with three readings and the first and second readings are the most important as the third, final reading is only for technical issues.

The Georgian Dream leadership established the first Constitutional Commission in 2013, as the authorities believed the amendments made to the constitution under the United National Movement leadership in 2010 included drawbacks and caused imbalance between different state institutions.

The Commission was re-established after the 2016 parliamentary elections, as unlike the 2012 elections the Georgian Dream gained a constitutional majority last year with 116 lawmakers out of the 150-member Parliament, which enabled them to put changes in the country’s main law.

The Constitutional Commission created last year was composed of 73 members from the ruling team, the opposition, NGOs, experts, and court representatives, to produce a draft of amendments in a four-month timeframe, which must be followed by public discussions of the draft in Georgian regions and hearings in Parliament.

In the final state of elaborating the draft in April this year, more than half of the members quit the Commission in protest as they disliked several key changes written in the draft by the ruling team.

Prior to adopting the draft, Georgia’s Parliament Speaker vowed “no changes would be brought in the constitution that would be disliked by Venice Commission”.

Last month the Commission approved bigger parts of planned changes, as well as moving to the fully proportional system from 2020, which was later changed by the ruling team.

A total of 73 lawmakers in the 150-member legislative body are elected from 73 single-member districts, known as “majoritarian” mandates, and 77 seats are distributed among parties which clear a 5% threshold in a nationwide vote.

The rejection of the majoritarian model of the elections has been long demanded by the NGOs and the opposition as the model favours the ruling team.

In the draft of the constitutional amendments, which was sent to the Venice Commission for recommendations, the Georgian Dream party initiated the replacement of the majoritarian model.

However, now it says that the proposed amendment, which was promised by the party ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections, will not come into play until 2024.