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Presidential or Parliamentary system?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 26
It has already become a tradition that as soon as the political situation in Georgia is aggravated the opposition starts discussing abolishing the Presidency and establishing a Parliamentary republic. This was speculated about before the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, and is also being suggested at the moment by some of the opposition parties.

Certain political analysts consider the suggestion a peace initiative which could forge the reconciliation of the opposing sides. At present the most active proponents of such a model of governance in Georgia are the leader of the Christian Democrats, Giorgi Targamadze, and Traditionalist leader Akaki Asatiani. The latter by the way has stated that political problems should be solved politically.

At first glance it appears that changing the system of government would be a move targeted against the current President, but if we examine the question in greater depth we see that such a change would be in the best interests of the ruling party. Representatives of the authorities are not radically opposing the idea, rather the contrary. Former National Movement MP Aleko Shalamberidze states that Georgia does not need a President any more. Analysts think that abolishing the Presidency would suit Saakashvili if he is able to complete his own Presidential term, which expires in 2013. According to the present Constitution he cannot stand for President again anyway, so it has been suggested by some that the ruling party could change the system itself so that Saakashvili could become the first Prime Minister of a Parliamentary republic when his Presidency has run its course, thus keeping himself in power.

Part of the opposition is ready to start dialogue on this subject and seemingly the authorities will not object. However there is little probability that such dialogue could begin before April 9. We don’t yet know how things will develop in the country, and if we get through the next few weeks without a change of Government these negotiations could last for several years, making their continuation appear to be in the best interests of the administration. Maybe this opposition idea is actually a lifebelt for the Government, which must believe it is possible to preserve itself by granting the opposition this one thing and using the new system for its own ends.

Some opposition leaders are against establishing a Parliamentary republic for exactly this reason. Jondi Baghaturia is categorically against this idea. “Having a President with a fixed term of office and a limit on how many times they can stand does at least place some restrictions on the office holder. If a Parliamentary republic is brought in we could have an eternal PM, and this would be the worst step. Mikheil Saakashvili could be elected PM and approved by this Parliament, and then we would all have to leave Georgia,” says Baghaturia.

The 9th of April could be a watershed in Georgian political history, and will determine if or how our leaders go. But this issue will be on the agenda whatever happens.