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Will Georgia have a Western-type constitution?

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 8
During his visit to Georgia on February 4-5 President of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio clarified that if Georgia wants to achieve its goal of integrating with the European community it must elaborate an appropriate constitution and act in accordance with it. He told the Georgian leadership this very openly and straightforwardly. He said that the existing constitution does not meet modern Western demands, in particular in the way it configures the relationships between the various branches of state. He thinks that the new constitution should include a much clearer separation of powers.

Buquicchio mentioned that the process of developing the Georgian constitution began soon after the country regained its independence but has still not been completed. As is known first President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia adopted an amended version of the Soviet Constitution, a model to very similar to that of the French. In 1995 President Shevardnadze adopted a more American-style Constitution in which the separation of powers was preserved at least on the paper. However in February 2004, after the Rose Revolution which claimed to be in the name of democracy, the Constitution was again amended and the principles which are not consistent with Western democracy were introduced at that point. A so called superpresidential country was created which has resisted change until now, thinks analyst and expert on constitutions Vakhtang Khmaladze.

Christian Democrat MP Levan Vephkhvadze thinks that the President of Georgia has been given special rights over and above those of being the head of government as he also practically runs Parliament as well. This ugly hybrid system has given Saakashvili more power than Shevardnadze had. The Rose Revolution administration calls these temporarily amendments but they are still in place. The President of the Venice Commission told the Georgian President that these amendments should be rescinded. He insisted that the time has come for the branches of state to be distinctly separated and their terms of reference changed. In particular he insisted that the President’s powers should be limited, Parliament’s should be increased and a really independent court system should be introduced.

Time passes but work on the new constitution continues. This should finish this autumn but what kind of constitution will be adopted depends on the Government. The administration promises a democratically balanced constitution. The Venice Commission President insisted however that a new constitution should be adopted on the basis of broad consensus and civil society groups and political parties should be involved in this process.

NGO representatives and political analysts agreed during their meeting with the Venice Commission delegation that debates on constitutional issues should be public. But will people actually know that the legalistic terminology of a constitution will deliver what they want? Ultimately this is another test of the goodwill of the administration, and it remains to be seen how it will address this challenge.