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Commission Agrees on Basic Draft of Constitution
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 May.'10 / 23:15

State commission on constitutional reform agreed on May 11 on a draft, which should serve as a basis for the new constitution.

If approved the draft, which has yet to face multiple discussions, will significantly increase Prime Minister’s powers at the expense of the presidential authority.

The draft, which was passed at a commission meeting with 31 votes to 10, is co-authored by the commission chairman, Avtandil Demetrashvili, a former chair of the Constitutional Court and commission secretary Tengiz Sharmanashvili of the National-Democratic Party.

Authors of the draft describe it as "a mixed governance" where the President will act as "an arbiter" between the legislative body and executive government, led by Prime Minister elected from the ranks of a party, which will garner most of the votes in the parliamentary elections.. 

Avtandil Demetrashvili, the chairman of the commission said that the draft, would be sent for expertise to Venice Commission, an advisory body of Council of Europe on constitutional and legal matter. He also said that the draft, which will be sent to Venice Commission, would include a provision saying that the document would go into force after 2013 presidential election.
 
President

According to the draft, the President will no longer direct and exercise domestic and foreign policy of the state - as the current constitution says. This authority will be delegated to PM and the government, according the draft.

President will remain the head of state, a commander-in-chief and supreme representative in foreign relations.

According to the draft, President appoints Prime Minister after the latter and the ministers are approved by the Parliament. 

At the same time, President will no longer have the right to unilaterally dismiss the government or to appoint and dismiss so called power-wielding ministers - Minister of Defense and Interior, as well as an exclusive right to supervise them, as it is envisaged by the current constitution.

President will have the right to convene the government’s session only if the case concerns special importance. 

While currently the Parliament approves ambassadorial nominations proposed by the President, in the proposed draft it will up to the government to nominate ambassadors, which will be then appointed by President.

The draft also lifts the right of the President to give a consent to the government over submitting a draft of state budget to the Parliament, hence the entire budgetary process will be up to the government and the Parliament.

The President will not also have the right either to suspend or cancel legal acts issued by the government.

Prime Minister will have the right to attest legal acts issued by the President. However, this right by Prime Minister will not apply to a presidential acts concerning a decision to dissolve the Parliament; calling elections; appointing the members of the National Security Council, chief of staff of the armed forces.

Government

According to the draft, the government will become the supreme body of the executive branch, which directs and executes the country’s foreign and domestic policy and which is accountable before the Parliament.

Prime Minister has the right to appoint and dismisses other members of the government. His resignation will automatically lead to the resignation of the government.

According to the draft, the government’s powers will be suspended as soon the mandate of newly-elected Parliament is approved, and not upon electing a new President, as it is envisaged by the current constitution.

According to the draft, new government will be composed by the party with the best results in the newly-elected Parliament. In particular, President will nominate a candidate, who will be proposed by the party, which will garner most of the votes in the elections. The prime ministerial candidate will himself select the ministers and submit them to the Parliament for approval along with the governmental program.

Parliament

The draft envisages fewer changes in respect of the legislative body. Unlike the initial draft, the one which was passed by the commission on May 11, the legislative body will remain with a single chamber. The initial draft envisaged two-chamber parliament.

The Parliament has the right to pass government’s non-confidence vote with majority of its members.

Within 3 days after the non-confidence vote, which should be accompanied by proposing a new prime ministerial candidate by no less than two-fifth of parliament members, the President will either nominate the proposed PM candidate or will dissolve the Parliament and call early elections.

The draft gives the right to the Parliament to overcome a presidential veto with majority vote, instead of currently needed support of two-third of its members. However, this provision will not apply constitutional draft laws.

According to the draft, one fifth of lawmakers, instead of current one fourth, will be able to initiate setting up of parliamentary investigative commission or other type of ad hoc commission. 

The Parliament will have the right to scrutinize state expenditures, but it won't have the right to amend the state budget without the government's consent, according to the draft.

Other Provisions

In other proposals of the draft, if approved age requirement of judges will increase from current 28 to 30 and their term in office will only expire after reaching a retirement age.
 
According to the draft, a person, who has a dual citizenship, cannot hold a senior position in the government.

Revision of the constitution will become more complicated as a proposed amendment will have to be adopted by two-third of all MPs in two subsequent sessions with a three-month interval.

The draft was passed by the commission with the view that it further requires additional considerations and discussions. It may also face some significant amendments. Some of the ruling party lawmakers, who are members of the commission, refused to support this draft, including parliamentary majority leader Petre Tsiskarishvili. Pavle Kublashvili, chairman of the parliamentary committee for legal affairs, however, voted for the draft.

Members of the commission from the parliamentary opposition supported the draft. Non-parliamentary opposition refused to join the commission, when it was established ten months ago.

At a meeting with state commission chairman, Avtandil Demetrashvili, in June, 2009, President Saakashvili said that Georgia should have the constitution “relevant to the Georgian reality and with democratic and European spirit.”

“Of course we need a strong parliament, of course we need an effective president and of course we need independent judiciary and of course people’s control over these [branches],” Saakashvili said.

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