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Constitutional changes discussed

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 10
Special commissions launched discussions of two amendments to the Constitution of Georgia on January 9. One of the amendments is concerned with the restriction of presidential powers and the other pertains to returning the parliament building to Tbilisi. The parliamentary minority is against the amendments to the constitution, stating that the majority is “obsessed with fair.”

Vice speaker Manana Kobakhidze provided definitions regarding the constitutional amendments and those restrictions which might be imposed on the president’s power.

She underscored that it is necessary to provide balance between parliamentary and presidential governance in order to avoid a political crisis in the country.

The vice speaker explained that the constitutional norms, which are in force at present, somehow create the threat of a political crisis. According to her, in order to avoid such situations until October 2013 [until the presidential election], specific amendments are necessary.

“The idea of these amendments is that the president will not be able to appoint the prime minister and the government unilaterally, in the case he dismisses the parliament; if he does so, the current government should work until a new parliament is elected and until a new cabinet is approved by the new parliament. This is the best means for maintaining balance between parliament and the president,” Kobakhidze emphasized

Through the changes, the president might be given the right to dismiss the parliament and appoint snap elections any time he wants.

As for the location of the legislative body, Zviad Dzidziguri from the majority, says even the minority members support the idea to return the parliament to Tbilisi.

“Cohabitation in such a form as it should be does not exist in Georgia. Changes in the constitution are required in order to avoid negative circumstances within the country,” Dzidziguri said.

The minority claims that the prepared constitutional amendments are anti-Kutaisi and anti- public actions imposed by the phobias and fears of the new government of Georgia.

According to MP, Akaki Minashvili, as soon as the idea of returning the parliament building to Tbilisi was voiced, a lot of construction work was suspended and several jobs were lost in Kutaisi and some other parts of Georgia as well.

Concerning the president-related constitutional changes, Minashvili estimates that the acting constitution is balanced and requires no additional involvement.

“The constitution was created after a long term working procedure by the commission. It is very balanced regarding the control mechanism. The constitution should stay as it is now,” Minashvili stated.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association spoke about the positive and negative aspects of the proposed changes.

According to GYLA representative, Tamar Chugoshvili, in the case that an individual is able to impose a political crisis, such action should be prevented. However, on the other hand, the president should not be able to dismiss the parliament without giving terms.

“Public discussions will reveal how adequate the suggested constitutional changes are,” she explained.

The Organization Commission of Discussion of Constitutional Changes was created at the parliament. The commission consists of majority and minority representatives, analysts and civil society representatives and aims to discuss the two constitutional changes in the different regions of Georgia and provide information to the public concerning the changes. The next sitting of the commission will be held in Zugdidi on January 15, then in Kutaisi on January 17, in Tbilisi on January 22, in Batumi and Ozurgeti on January 23, in Gori on January 24, in Rustavi and Telavi on January 25 and in Akhaltsikhe on January 26. A meeting will be also held with the journalists. The public discussion will be over on February 4 and the package of constitutional changes will be presented to the Parliament.