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The Constitutional merry-go-round goes on

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, July 29
On the initiative of President Saakashvili Parliament has started working on yet more Constitutional amendments. The President has suggested, (read, ordered), that Parliament be moved to Kutaisi, at least in part, and also he suggested/ordered that opposition members who were elected to Parliament last year but demonstratively refused to enter it, claiming that the elections had been rigged, should be allowed to re-enter Parliament. Both of these suggestions can only be made law by amending relevant clauses of the Constitution of Georgia.

These unusual initiatives are part of a pattern. The Georgian legislative body has already introduced more than 70 amendments to the Constitution it only adopted in 1995. Making so many amendments seriously undermines public confidence in the Constitution. Furthermore introducing these initiatives now is very strange as only several weeks ago a special Constitutional Commission was established to develop a new Constitution. Why is the President so keen to make yet more amendments to a Constitution which might be completely changed anyway? Would it not have been better to wait and see what the Constitutional Commission came out with before trying to amend its draft before the event?

More questions could be asked, but this is the situation we have to address right now. There is no doubt that Parliament will adopt any amendments proposed by the President, but his suggestions have raised many serious questions among politicians, analysts and the general population.

Reinstating MPs who have refused to take their seats in Parliament would be unprecedented, as it is a practice not so far known in the democratic world. We highlight the word ‘democratic’, excluding pseudo-democracies and dictatorships. Most of the elected persons who tore their mandates up and then officially applied for their election to be struck out are still refusing to participate in the work of a Parliament they say is illegal. “I did not tear up my MP mandate to then support the President’s initiatives. Today the Georgian Parliament and anyone’s presence in it serve no purpose at all. If this is not the case let me see at least one result achieved by the Parliamentary opposition,” non-Parliamentary opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze has said. New Rights leader Davit Gamkrelidze suggests that if the President is concerned about some elected members not sitting in Parliament he can hold snap Parliamentary elections in a fair and just way, whose results would disperse any suspicions and doubts.

Transferring some sessions of the Parliament to Kutaisi is a rather extravagant step. A lot of money and effort will be needed to make this happen. A special building will have to be built and an appropriate infrastructure should be created. One of the authors of 1995 Constitution, Vakhtang Khmaladze, thinks that any kind of Constitutional amendments should have strong and genuine reasons to be made. Moving Parliament from the capital is absolutely beyond comprehension and unacceptable to him. Some opposition members think that this idea should only be supported if Parliament becomes bicameral, and Tbilisi continues to host the lower house while Kutaisi houses the Senate. One of the reasons the administration says it wants to hold Parliament sessions in Kutaisi is to improve the economy of the city and thus help its population. Christian Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze suggests that instead of spending GEL 150 million on establishing Parliament there you could achieve the Government’s stated objective by spending GEL 50 million in a properly targeted way on a economic development programme for the city.

Maybe the President wants to disperse the state bodies to different parts of the country to get people used to the idea of Georgia becoming a federal state. No one knows exactly what Saakashvili really wants to achieve with these measures. But the general conclusion is that neither of these extraordinary moves will contribute much to improving the level of wellfare in the country.