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Parliament overrides President's veto on new constitution

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 16
The Parliament of Georgia has overridden President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s veto on the constitutional draft, and adopted the constitutional changes.

The Georgian Dream (GD) authorities and lawmakers applauded the adoption; stressing Georgia has the “most refined constitution ever,”while the President, the opposition and NGOs say the ruling team introduced certain key changes in the law without a consensus.

Parliament overrode the President’s veto with 117 votes for and seven against.

The ruling party, which has 116 lawmakers in Parliament, needed at least 113 votes to override the veto.

Before the procedure to override the veto, the President’s motivated remarks were voted on, and the majority of lawmakers refused to accept them.

The remarks included demands both in the interests of the ruling team and the opposition.

The remarks initiated moving to the fully proportional representation electoral system from 2020 and not 2024, the possibility of creation of election blocks for the 2020 parliamentary elections, fair sharing of undistributed votes [sharing of votes received by parties failing in elections between parliamentary parties], direct election of the President [by the people], reforming of the constitutional court and changing rules about freedom of religions.

The majority were ready to accept all but the two notes- the immediate move to the proportional representation system and direct election of the President.

After accepting the new constitution, head of the President’s administration GiorgiAbashishvili said that the current state leadership “failed to take the previous authorities’ mistakes into account.”

He stressed that, like its predecessor, the current state leadership refused dialogue on key state issues.

Abashishvili stated that the amended constitution was a “one-party” document.

“The government has divided the political spectrum by adopting a one-party constitution,” Abashishvili said.

“Unfortunately, the government has not understood that democracy involves dialogue, agreement and not suppression," he added.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili gave a different evaluation of the new constitution.

“This is a major step forward on the path of the democratic development of the country,” PMstated.

“This is a modern, western-type document that is based on national interests, and that shall become the further guarantor of freedom, progress, stability and the European future of our country,” Kvirikashvili stressed in a statement issued on October 14.

The PM thanked the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, for their support in the process ofdeveloping the new edition of the Constitution of Georgia.

“The Venice Commission confirmed in its final assessment that the constitutional amendments are based on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and protection of fundamental rights,” the PM stated.

The US Embassy believes that constitutional changes create the strongest basis for lasting reform when they enjoy broad-based consensus across parties and society.

“The Embassy places strong weight on the opinion of the Venice Commission, and supports its recommendations. We are disappointed that the sides involved could not reach a general consensus,” the Embassy statement reads.

The key amendments of the newly adopted constitution are:

Georgia will switch to fully proportional elections in 2024.

The 2020 parliamentary elections will still be held through the existing mixed proportional and majoritarian system, but the election threshold will be lowered to 3 percent from 5 percent, for these elections only.

The President will be elected by a special council starting in 2024.

In 2018, the President will still be elected directly, but for a six and not a five-year term.

Selling agricultural land to foreign nationals will be prohibited.

The opposition rights in Parliament will be increased, permitting them to create investigative commissions, among other things.