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Constituting a new Constitution

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 12
In summer 2009, during acute confrontation between the authorities and the opposition, President Saakashvili created a commission to prepare a new draft of the Georgian Constitution. The Georgian media now reports that work on this has been completed, although there has been no public announcement.

The creation of the Constitutional Commission was determined by two factors. First of all it was a gesture of goodwill from the administration, a partial counter to claims by the opposition it was behaving unconstitutionally itself. The Government also announced that the Chairman of the Commission would be selected by the opposition. The second reason for doing it was to show the Western friends of Georgia that the country was ready to begin a new wave of democracy. As is known, as soon as the Rose Revolution occurred and Saakashvili was elected President the first thing he did was force Parliament to adopt antidemocratic amendments to the Constitution which increased his power and decreased Parliamentís, thus enabling him to dictate legislation. This was explained as a means of accelerating democratic reforms. The Georgian population swallowed this absurd paradox, Westerners protested slightly, but that was the end of the matter.

Since then the Constitution has been changed with such frequency that no hard copy is available, only the internet version. In the six years since the Rose Revolution more than 70 amendments have been made to the Constitution. When creating the present Constitutional Commission the Government promised that the faults in it would be removed and the country would receive a balanced, European-type constitution. Immediately, and in fact before then, the question was asked: what kind of country should Georgia be? A Presidential Republic, a Parliamentary Republic or something in between? The authorities have not yet decided what model of governance the state should have, so work on the Constitution which will provide legal form to this is stuck. It has been decided that a draft new Constitution must be ready to be adopted by the end of 2010. Therefore the work needs to be accelerated as there are several procedures to go through before we get to that point.

How well balanced and democratic the new Constitution is will depend on the situation within the country and the reviews and opinions of our Western friends. During his recent visit to Georgia Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Venice Commission, made some bitter remarks about the existing Constitution, and recommended that the rights of Parliament be increased. Saakashvili promised him that he would do this and gave him an award as a token of his appreciation for the comment. However it is unlikely that major changes will be made in the Constitution and the country will probably continue to have something like a Presidential Republic. Balancing powers means not only increasing Parliament's powers but redistributing responsibilities between the President and Prime Minister, and there are some other options which would facilitate further democracy in the country, but if anything radical was likely to be proposed we would surely have heard about this by now.

The new Constitution is not yet ready but will most probably be amended in a way which suits the present authorities rather than the opposition. But still, letís hope for the best. It may be that a small amendment has more far reaching consequences than originally intended, as often happens in any field when new regulations are drawn up.