European Experts' Key Advice on Constitutional Reform
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Sep.'10 / 20:01

Change of rule of non-confidence vote in the proposed constitutional amendments is a main recommendation put forth by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, said delegation of the Commission, which visited Tbilisi on September 16-17.
 
The Venice Commission has produced preliminary opinion on the draft and it was expected to table its final recommendations this week. But as there have been some amendments to the draft, the Commission decided to postpone its final opinion for mid-October in order to have the possibility to assess the refined version of the draft.
 
Meanwhile, the Georgian Parliament will launch discussion of the draft this month and will most likely endorse it with first hearing before the Venice Commission delivers its final recommendations.

The Commission was told by the Georgian authorities that even though the draft might be endorsed with first reading before the Commission’s final recommendations would become available, it was still possible to further amend the draft, possibly in line with those recommendations, during the second reading.

According to the parliamentary regulations, a constitutional law should be passed with three readings, wherein during the first reading lawmakers discuss draft’s general principles; during the second reading MPs discuss the draft article-by-article, but no such amendment is permitted at this stage of discussion, which may change the substance of the entire draft in principle.
 
During the press conference in Tbilisi on September 17 the delegation members briefed about the visit and summed up key Commission’s recommendations.

Reciting the Commission’s written preliminary opinion, the delegation members said that although in overall the proposed draft was “an important step in a right direction”, especially in comparison to highly controversial 2004 amendments, there still were some problems.

“The most important problems from our point of view probably are provisions on the formation of the government and on the vote of no confidence,” Thomas Markert, secretary of the Venice Commission, said.

According to the Venice Commission the main increase in the role of Parliament comes to the fact that the most powerful person in the country under the new model, i.e. PM, will be elected by the legislative body. But the model, he said, envisages a strong executive government.

“This is a conviction of the drafters that Georgia needs such a strong government in this period,” Markert said.

Change of rule of vote of no confidence would strengthen accountability of the government before the Parliament, he said. “That’s one of our main recommendations,” he added.

In its preliminary opinion, the Commission said that although the government’s powers would be increased, the President still “retains important powers”, including in the field of the international relations, the armed forces and the situations of emergency, as well as in case of situation when government faces vote of no confidence.

The Commission warned that there was a risk of possible scenario, when President could come in conflicts with the other institutions – a scenario “which is enhanced by the fact that the President is directly elected.”

President Saakashvili said recently that he was strongly against of further decrease of presidential powers in the new model.

“Constitutional reform process in any country is also a political process and it is also normal that political considerations prevail over expert advice,” the Venice Commission secretary said.

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