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Draft constitution passed at first Parliament reading

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 27
There were 123 votes against 4, as the draft of constitutional amendments was passed with its first reading to the Parliament, on September 24. The draft has been presented to the lawmakers by Minister of Justice, Zurab Adeishvili.

Changes, which have already been confirmed are: a category of “organic law” will remain in the constitution; not unilaterally by the PM, but the entire government will appoint regional governors; the President will have no right to unilaterally call for a referendum; the President will have no right to unilaterally nominate members of telecommunications and energy regulatory commissions, but he will have to do it with agreement with government.

There are problematic issues, which might be changed during the second reading of the draft, concerning the rights of the President, “We are ready for detailed discussions if there is any concrete proposal on how to avoid conflict between the President and the government over foreign policy issues during the second reading,” Adeishvili told lawmakers.

According to the current draft, the President keeps the position of supreme representative of Georgia in foreign relations. As the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, the Venice Commission, said in its preliminary opinion on the draft, this provision “risks being a source of conflict within the government, should it not be clear that the representative functions of the President (in foreign relations) should be confined to symbolic ones.” Another possible change, that would cut presidential powers, involves giving the PM a right of so called “counter assignation” of presidential decree on the appointment of chief of staff of the armed forces.

Majority representatives have called the constitution draft an historical document, “This can be considered as historic reform, which will impose the country’s significant enforcement and advance, “ MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, stated.

Opposition opinion on the draft differs from those of the government. However, only 4 parliamentary opposition members voted against the draft amendments at the first reading, “The reason I voted against the draft amendments is the situation concerning the court. Talking on any kind of system is useless in the country if there is no impartial court,” oppositional MP, Dimitri Lortkipanidze stated. Another opposition MP, Giorgi Tsagareishvili stated that he could not see the opposition playing a significant role, “Unfortunately, I have seen only majority and not opposition while discussing the draft amendments; I and my political team believe that those amendments aim to strengthen the power of the present authority and nothing more,“ Tsagareishvili, from Our Georgia-Free Democrats , stated.

As for the Parliamentary minority Christian-Democratic Movement, which have voted for the above mentioned amendments, “In order to carry out all positive amendments of the new constitution, amending the electoral environment in the country is necessary, “ leader of CDM, Giorgi Targamadze, said.

As analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger, “I do not think that there is any balance between the branches based on the draft. On the one hand, the President’s power is reduced and on the other hand he still remains involved in executive policy. At the same time, the process in which the draft is being discussed is very obscure. The authorities state that foreign recommendations are significant for them. However they do not consider the forthcoming recommendations of Venice Commission. (The Commission recommendations are to be in the mid of October). Herewith, I am sure that there would be not more than 10 men in the Parliament, who have read what is written in the draft and know in reality for what he is voting. It is very regrettable that the base document of the country is being adopted so hastily, “Khukhashvili stated.