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Constitution consultations are expected to start

By Tina Tskhovrebadze
Monday, July 24
The Parliament of Georgia adopted the draft constitutional amendments with a second hearing on June 23, however, Georgian opposition parties lagged behind the process boycotting key amendments in the revised constitution. The international society seeks for more involvement of representatives of political parties and expects the Constitution of Georgia shall not be adopted by only one party.

The Chairman of Georgian Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze rules out the possibility of withdrawing the draft constitution, but admits main procedural and technical mechanisms to make a number of changes to the draft. In his statement, Kobakhidze shows readiness to start consultations with Georgian opposition parties from a new page, but excludes the revision of fundamental issues that were the key basis of consensus within the ruling party. In the framework of Ambassadorial 2017, Kobakhidze mentioned that “in comparison with current constitution none of the norms in the revised draft constitution works in favor of the ruling party in terms of creating some preferences and priorities.” In his speech (made on July 18, The Ambassadorial 2017) the Chairman of Georgian Parliament stated that the main aim is to involve citizens, political parties, and international society in adopting the document, which will be recognized by the international community.

Beka Natsvlishvili a member of the Parliamentary fraction the “Georgian Dream –Social Democrats” thinks that political sides will not be able to make a consensus regarding the issue to use a proportional system in the Georgian parliamentary elections in 2020. He expects the ruling and opposition parties might have a consensus regarding the electoral threshold (for example, if a party overcomes the threshold it might have a minimum of 5 deputy members in the Parliament) and creation of political blocks.

The member of the Parliamentary Majority Eka Beselia expects that a dialogue with the opposition parties starts next week, the format of debates and number of opposition party representatives depend on their vision of cooperation.

As to the opposition, it faces a danger of falling apart in search of common position regarding the constitutional changes. Most of them cannot agree on type of suggestions. According to their vision, if a government rejects to hold proportional elections in 2020, discussing other issues will not make any sense. Electing the President of Georgia with the direct voting system and electoral system are principal issues for the Parliamentary opposition.

Zaza Bibilashvili, one of the leaders of the United National Movement party, states they are ready for consultations, but will not agree with ultimatums, one of the aims of the meeting should be discovering solutions to the dead end the process is facing and it might be helpful to bring back the first stage of constitutional discussions.

Keeping in mind all these challenges, the ruling party still needs to think about possible formats of consultations with the opposition parties while working on the key constitutional amendments. The issue was discussed on July 19, at the assembly of the Georgian Parliamentary majority at the central office of the “Georgian Dream.”Before the meeting Archil Talakvadze, leader of the Majority of the Georgian Parliament, named several key topics in the list of working agenda, among them, defining possible formats of cooperation with the Georgian opposition regarding the constitutional amendments. After the meeting Gia Volsky (Vice-speaker of the Parliament, the “Georgian Dream”) notes, that “the meeting with opposition members will definitely take place most likely next week and an exact date of the meeting will be determined at the extraordinary session of the Parliament of Georgia, thus the Ruling party needs to make it clear whether the leaders of parties should meet representatives of the oppositions; Head of the State or Primer-Minister as well”. At the same time, he mentions that the ruling party will not change its position regarding principal issues such as an electoral system, the issues of land ownership and marriage.

As it looks right now, the agreement between the ruling and opposition parties will take long time and it requires stronger attempts to come to a common solution.