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President’s proposals discussed in Parliament

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, July 28
On Monday the Georgian Parliamentary Bureau discussed two of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s proposals. One envisages moving Parliament to Kutaisi, the other would give opposition politicians who refused to enter Parliament after the May 21, 2008 elections the chance to take their seats. In June 2008, 12 opposition politicians tore up their parliamentary mandates as a sign of protest against the “rigged” Parliamentary elections.

The Bureau members decided to create a special commission, chaired by ruling party MP Pavle Kublashvili, to discuss these initiatives. They said a month-long public discussion will be held before the final version of these proposed amendments to the Constitution is drafted.

Speaking to journalists after the Bureau session, MP Gigi Tsereteli said the political processes should move from the streets to Parliament. “The President’s proposal is very realistic,” Tsereteli noted. “The events of the last months have shown that radicalism cannot bring any positive results. Radicalism brings only economic harm,” he added. MP Akaki Minashvili said that the Government is giving the opposition a chance to “wipe off the blot on their supporters, who voted for them.”

The non-Parliamentary opposition members who won seats last May say they are not planning to go back to Parliament. Mamuka Katsitadze from the New Rights said that those who refused their mandates in 2008 had expressed the will of their supporters. “Saakashvili’s regime did not take away our mandates so they will not be able to return them to us and gain some points by doing it. The mandates were given to us by our voters, and in accordance with the will of these voters we refused to enter Parliament. We will reclaim those mandates only through the will of our voters,” Katsitadze said.

The only political force which has yet to decide whether to reclaim its mandates is the Alliance for Freedom, chaired by Konstantine Gamsakhurdia. “We will take a decision after we see what kind of Constitutional amendments will be proposed and what kind of draft will be submitted to Parliament,” member of the Alliance Sandro Bregadze said on Monday.

The opposition has also criticised the proposal to hold Parliament sessions in Kutaisi and committee hearings in the capital. MP Jondi Baghaturia from the Georgian Troupe said the initiative of the President is nothing more than a pre-election “trick”. According to Baghaturia, Tbilisi gains nothing from Parliament sessions being held in the capital, “So it will give nothing to Kutaisi as well.” “Moving Parliament sessions to Kutaisi will only create more expenditure. This is a pre-election trick to please Kutaisi residents,” the MP said.

Political analysts say moving Parliament sessions to Kutaisi will serve the political interests of the Government. Analyst Irakli Sesiashvili has stated that the Government is taking measures against possible “revolution”. “It seems that sooner or later the administration will have to announce snap Parliamentary elections, and it is highly probable that the Government will rig these. This means another revolution is inevitable. If this happens, it is clear that the main focus of opposition action will be the Parliament. The opposition will try not to let Parliament convene and legitimise itself, as happened in 2003. So probably the first session of the new Parliament will be held in Kutaisi if the amendments are approved, and all the demonstrators from Tbilsi will not be able to go there and protest,” Sesiashvili noted.

Another political commentator Gia Khukhashvili has said “it is hard to find any logic in the President’s proposal.” “It was a strange initiative. It seems that Saakashvili feels hurt by Tbilisi and is trying to take state institutions out of this town,” Khukhashvili noted. “I am sure that 90 percent of the MPs do not want to move to Kutaisi, however during Saakashvili’s address in Parliament they received this proposal with applause,” he added.