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Why constitutional changes?

By Messenger Staff
Monday, December 29
The political establishment of Georgia talked about everything except constitutional changes after the Russian invasion. The opposition, both Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary, had demanded from the first amendments to the election code. So for the opposition as well as the ruling party it came as a surprise when the President suddenly announced that changes would be introduced in the Constitution, which would decrease the President’s power and increase that of Parliament.

As almost always, Saakashvili announced his decision on December 26 without any public discussion. Maybe he consulted someone who has remained invisible, but without prior warning he declared he would submit his proposed changes to Parliament on December 29, although Parliament has not seen or heard about them until now, or had the chance to analyze and form an opinion on them.

The changes will make it easier for Parliament to dismiss the Government, and very difficult for the President to dismiss Parliament. “This means we are giving Parliament extra control over the Government and obliging all the Ministries to be permanently accountable to Parliament and the entire Georgian people, so the Government will be forced to accept responsibility if it cannot fulfill its duties,” stated the President. He said that the changes should gradually lead the country towards a classical European governance model. “Georgia should be governed by the Georgian people. We all belong to the people and we should give the people the right to exercise daily control over us,” stated Saakashvili.

The statement that “people should control the state/Government” was made by Saakashvili during the first days of the Rose Revolution. We can only express our frustration that this has remained simply empty words until now and five years have had to pass before the concept was revived. If the idea had been implemented when it was promised, the state would not have fallen into such a dire condition. As for increasing the powers of Parliament, it looks as if the President has made concessions and given up the extra rights he was given by his obedient Parliament on February 6, 2004. That increase in Presidential powers, as we all remember, was criticized by local and Western commentators as being anti-democratic.

The opposition has received the President’s initiative with a certain irritation and irony. This was not what they had demanded - he has to call new Parliamentary elections and resign, they say. The opposition suspects that the President is trying to prolong his tenure by various tricks. Labour’s Giorgi Gugava thinks Saakashvili wants to be Prime Minister when his term as President expires, hence the increase in the power of Parliament over any future President. Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks these constitutional changes are needed to improve Saakashvili’s image in the West. The Resonansi newspaper suggests that the USA has insisted on these changes as a precondition to signing the bilateral agreement. Their ready made text arrived from the State Department and two days were needed to translate them into Georgian, Resonansi says.

Georgia is a country of rumours, and these will exist until the text of the amendments is available and we see what changes will be introduced in the Constitution. One thing, however, is clear: whatever the President submits will be adopted by the Parliamentary majority without a single correction.