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Further discussion on Georgia's constitutional reform

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, September 23
The Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) organized a meeting on the new constitutional reform of Georgia at Courtyard Marriott Hotel on September 22. As Keti Khutsishvili, the Executive Director of OSGF explained to the audience, the special sitting aimed at summarizing the results of the constitutional reform by the civil society. It also provided the Parliament with the argumentations made by NGOs and legal analysts about the necessary changes within the draft. The question of whether the recommendations of the local NGOs and the Venice Commission are going to be reflected in the final draft document was the main reason for holding the meeting.

Tamar Khidasheli, the Chair of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), which had been actively engaged in the activities of the State Constitutional Commission spoke of the gaps within the process. Khidasheli complained that the State Constitutional Commission, the majority of whom are from the Governmental group, has completed the draft document in a very short period of time. “It was not until July 19, 2010 that the State Constitutional Commission finished working on the draft document while it had been established on June 23, 2009,” Khidasheli stated.

Tengiz Sharmanashvili, the co-author of the new constitutional draft, explained the reason for the prolonged working process on the draft. “We, the members of the commission had so many controversial subjects to consider that it had taken us a long time to agree on particular issues,” Sharmanashvili told the audience. “We introduced the draft as soon as we had summarized the joint concerns as it would have been impossible to hold endless discussions with local and international experts,” he added.

The public discussions, which started in August 2010, have been not been entirely transparent as both the Government and non-government TV stations broadcasting the process only covered Tbilisi. Therefore, the people in the outlying regions remained uninformed. Even though the State Constitutional Commission had been holding public discussions within the region personally, the people remained unaware of the controversy surrounding the issue. “I would like to ask the Parliament of Georgia to postpone the adoption of the new State Constitution and give the public an opportunity to listen to the alternative opinions,” Khidasheli stated.

According to MP Pavle Kublashvili the new constitutional project has been well-balanced in terms of the functions of the Legislative and Governmental bodies and the strong arbiter-President’s institute. He stressed that putting off the adoption of the new draft law for those sides who have only just started to voice their concerns would be a waste of the time. “These will be the radical changes within the State Constitution as an important basis for the country with developing economics,” Kublashvili told The Messenger.

“It is the quality that should define the success of the process not the quantity of procedural activities,” claimed the opposition unanimously. Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) highlighted that the public discussion of the draft had been the only positive for the opposition which is limited in its authority. “I have obtained great experience in legal issues during the discussion with the State Constitutional Commission but unfortunately the society had less opportunity to express their view as the process of discussions remained non-transparent. Therefore, they have not been serious about the issue,” said a worried Targamadze.

“The Venice Commission had advised the Parliament of Georgia to postpone the discussions until October while the Parliament is going to hold debates in a few days…The final draft of the constitutional draft hasn’t been introduced to the public so I wonder what the Parliament is going to vote for,” Mamuka Katsitadze from the New Rights told The Messenger.

The leader of the Republican Party Davit Usupashvili said ironically that he realized that the State Constitutional Commission had done all it could. Usupashvili encouraged the audience to stop wasting time in discussing the well-planned draft fitting the Government. He also spoke of the artificial procedural activities of the State Constitutional Commission and relevant recommendations from the local and international analysts which he doubted had been taken into consideration.

The imbalance in distribution of political authority between the legislative and executive bodies, which was the main source of controversy in the previous State Constitution, remains unsolved according to the legal experts. Discussing the remarks based on specific argumentations made by the Venice Commission, analyst Irakli Kobakhidze stressed that the Commission had disapproved even the preamble of the new state document. “The model of the constitutional draft differs from the three basic forms of governance with their own rules thus can’t be mixed. The new constitutional model [worked out by the State Constitutional Commission] has been introducing the legally anomalous model to the Georgian society,” Kobakhidze said adding that a mix in models may result in serious conflict between the President, PM and the Parliament.

Members of the State Constitutional Commission shared their opinions and summarized the recommendations of the Venice Commission at the Majority Sitting later on the same day. It is not yet known when the Parliament of Georgia will discuss the constitutional reform and the sides still wonder whether their argumentations and recommendations will be considered.