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President's Veto influence on Lawmaking Process

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Tuesday, July 25
On July 20, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, vetoed the decision of Parliament to abolish the status of seven self-governing cities, thus temporarily suspending the process. However, the President’s veto shall not have a real impact on the government’s decision, because the ruling party, which has a constitutional majority, has the power to override the president's veto. In Georgian political life,there have been quite a few cases of overriding President's veto by Parliament.

The bill on self-governance was initiated by Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, on June 1, 2017. After two weeks, on June 15, the Parliament adopted a resolution to unite seven cities, (Gori, Ambrolauri, Mtskheta, Ozurgeti, Telavi, Akhaltsikhe, and Zugdidi) with its municipalities. The resolution was supported by 85 MPs and only 10 were against it. The representatives of ruling party have explained the decision by necessity to reduce financial costs. "There shouldn't be three different governmental branches in one little city," said Vice Premier Alexander Jejelava and stressing the need for “cost and management efficiency.”

The decision caused resistance of the civil sector. In order to stop the process, ten influential non-governmental organizations wrote a joint letter to the President. "We urge you, not to sign the bill of amendments on local government code and send it back to Parliament with remarks," reads the statement.

The President announced his opinion that the amendments to be adopted by Parliament would weaken the country’s democracy. Because of this, he vetoed proposed changes to the Local Self-Government Code. It is important to mention, that the process of decentralization started after a new political party, Georgian Dream, came to power. "Turning back this process is absolutely unimaginable and unacceptable. Reducing the number of self-governing cities ‘weakens the importance of municipal elections,’” said Margvelashvili in his statement on July 20. The President’s action was responded by the ruling party: "The President knows Parliament can override his veto, but perhaps he expects us to learn about his opinion and to take a decision only after this. Using vetos is not the best way for communication, but we will carefully discuss his remarks in Parliament," says a leader of Parliamentary Majority, MP Archil Talakvadze.

Using veto became one of the most frequent ways of communication between Parliament and President of Georgia. Giorgi Margvelashvili has used vetoes eight times, in total. The Georgian Parliament accepted the President’sremarks only twice, the President’s vetoes were overridden four times and two more vetoes are in the process of discussion.

In order to override the President's veto, the Parliament needs support of 76 MPs. The ruling party- Georgian Dream, has 115 members in Parliament. The question emerges: What is the role of the President's veto if the ruling party can easily override it?!

"Despite the consequences that the President's veto shallhave, it is important to explain to people and members of Parliament that the decision, they are going to make, shall hurt democracy and therefore, it is unacceptable," says President's Parliamentary Secretary Ana Dolidze.

Nowadays in Georgia, a main function of President’s veto is to focus the society’s attention on specific issues, which according to President’s opinion shall be harmful to democratic processes. It also underlines the fact that there is a disagreement among different branches of power. After constitutional reforms, Georgia adopted a political system where the President is only able to delay a law-making process for a short time and provide his opinions and recommendations.

This time, in a few days, the Parliament will make its decision about the President’s remarks regarding the amendments to self-government code and it should not be surprising that, similar to previous cases, the President's veto shall be overridden.

• October 2014 - President vetoed amendments about changing the dates of adoption of a new surveillance bill - The Parliament accepted his remarks;
• November 2014 - the President vetoed the legislation allowing governmental agencies to have direct, unrestricted access to telecom operators' networks; Parliament overrode it;
• July 2015 - President vetoeda controversial bill on National Bank of Georgia. Parliament overrode it;
• May 2016- President vetoed a series of reforms to the Constitutional Court of Georgia. Parliament approved it;
• January 2017- President vetoeda bill on judicial reform; Parliament overrode it;
• March 2017 - President vetoed a surveillance bill; Parliament overrode it;
• July 2017- President vetoed a local self-government bill; Ongoing process;
• July 2017- President vetoed an election bill; Ongoing process.