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PM Claims New Constitution Will Remain in History

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 9
Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili claims that changes made to the country’s constitution under the Georgian Dream leadership will act as an “important heritage” for future generations.

Kvirikashvili’s statement came shortly after the release of final recommendations over the constitutional amendments by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

The Commission gave a general, positive assessment to the constitutional draft, which is already adopted with its three, key readings in Parliament, but stressed that the delay of the move to the fully proportional elections [until 2024] and the lack of a large-scale consensus over the draft was a shortcoming.

The Commission hoped that Georgian Dream would fulfill its promise and let election blocs for the 2020 parliamentary elections lower the election threshold to three percentinstead of five, for the next parliamentary race. Besides this, the ruling party cancelled the initiative of the bonus system, which considered granting most of the votes received by the parties that failed to overcome the threshold to the party that gained majority of votes.

Georgia’s Speaker of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze, who chaired a special 73-member constitutional commission composed of politicians, NGOs, experts and legal advisers, stated that the Venice Commission said through its report that a “very good cake [referring to the constitutional draft] was baked, but no one wanted to taste it.”

Kobakhidze explained that in “no one” he meant the President and the opposition.

“However, this is not a problem as ‘we baked the cake’ for the people of Georgia as opposed to one group in particular,” Kobakhidze stated.

The President’s Parliamentary Secretary Anna Dolidze said that the recommendations of the Venice Commission were an attempt to correct the mistakes made by the ruling party.

“The recommendation report is very clearly negative about the delayed move to the fully proportional elections, and stresses it is not a public document adopted through large-scale involvement,” Dolidze said adding that the Commission hopes for “some changes in the already adopted draft.”

The President, who has said that Georgia must move to fully proportional elections from 2020, and that the President must be directly elected by the people, has stated that he would disregard the bill.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili announced his decision after the meeting with the opposition and the majority lawmakers.

The remarks made to Parliament by the President will reflect two points in the interests of majority and the remaining two in the interests of opposition.

The majority had asked the president to disregard only two parts of the draft regarding the election blocks and bonus system, as when the majority initiated amendments on these issues, the draft had already been approved.

In case the President disregardsonly two parts, the majority will support the remarks,thus the amended constitution will come into play earlier.

The other two points, requested by the President, the opposition and NGOs, are relating to the full move to the proportional elections from 2020, and electing President by direct elections.

The majority says it is very likely the dismissal of the draft will be overridden, which means the Speaker of Parliament will sign the draft and changes will come into play.

Georgia now has a mixed electoral system with 73 lawmakers elected through the majoritarian race and 77 via the party-list by proportional voting.

As the majoritarian elections have favored ruling parties, the opposition has demanded the rejection of this type of election for years.

Georgian Dream initiated the constitutional changes shortly after they came to power in 2012. However, at that time they did not have a constitutional majority.

Georgian Dream claimed that the constitutional amendments adopted by the United National Movement in 2010 were made in the interests of then President Mikheil Saakashvili, and caused misbalance between state institutions.

In the 2016 Parliamentary elections, Georgian Dream gained the constitutional majority, consequently received a lever to change the constitution.