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Looking to the future: Presidential elections

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 29
There is yet another forthcoming election in Georgia – the presidential election. And already, there is controversy surrounding the date for which the elections will be held. According to the Georgian Constitution, the presidential elections are to be held in October of 2013. However, the same constitution envisions the president's powers extending for five-years and for Saakashvili; his five-year presidency expires in January of 2013. This is so because his previous terms were terminated early due to the resignation of the president in November 2007 and therefore he was elected for his second term on January 5, 2008. As a result, some opposition members as well as lawyers think that prolonging the presidential term for nine extra months is illegal and goes against what the constitutional envisions. Moreover, the elections in January will presumably put to rest the threat of two powers appearing in Georgia, and the potential for civil unrest.

The situation in Georgia is as such. There is ? majority in the parliament, whereas as the president represents the opposition force. This is a familiar situation for Western countries and this aspect of democracy is explained as coexistence. But in Georgia, which up until now has not yet established true democratic principles, this coexistence is mostly substituted by two powers and this can spawn confrontation.

There are some reasons to support this concern: after the Rose Revolution, the president was granted extra rights that allow him to rule without considering the varying decisions and opinions of the parliamentary majority. For example, he can exercise the right to personally appoint the ministers of justice, interior and defense. He can also discharge the PM which means that all the ministers would subsequently have to resign. The president can also create a new government on his own without considering the majority opinion in parliament. If the president attempts to utilize all these rights he can create a very serious political crisis resulting in multiple problems– both political and economical.

Republican MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, an expert on Georgia's constitution, has pointed out multiple times that the National Movement has violated the constitution repeatedly and suggests that the longer such a situation lasts, the longer the country will remain in a risky condition. So far, Georgia’s president has stated that he would be cooperative with new majority; however some analysts fear that if Saakashvili decides there is a good enough reason, he can activate his rights and create a political crisis and announce the holding of elections again. It is worthy to remember that the UNM controls most of the local governance system and right after the October 1 elections, Saakashvili appointed three new regional governors from his team. So the situation is complicated, full of possible threats and if current parliamentary majority does not take appropriate steps in due time, the situation might become rather tense.

The introduction of amendments in the constitution is possible only through the support of a constitutional majority in the parliament which is 100 supporters out of 150. The Georgian Dream coalition has only 85 MPs so far, whereas the opposition UNM has 65. Now, when the two directly-elected MPs from the GD coalition, Tea Tsulukiani and Kakha Kaladze become ministers, the GD coalition will then have 83 supporters. It desperately needs 17 extra supporters to enjoy a constitutional majority and about 6 directly elected MPs might already be ready to join the coalition. However, 11 extra votes are still needed.