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Parliament to Launch Constitutional Debates in Sept
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Aug.'10 / 02:24

Parliament will start debating draft of constitutional amendments, which increases PM's powers at the expense of President, in September.

Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairman, said the draft would probably be passed either in late October or early November.

Bakradze is a chairman of a 36-member group, which leads public discussions on the proposed draft – a formal procedure required for any constitutional law before it is discussed by the Parliament. In addition, with the support of UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Parliament has launched a website to provide floor to citizens for discussing and commenting on the proposed draft.

As the chairman of this group, Bakradze has led series of meetings in various towns throughout this month - the process will continue for two more weeks - discussing the proposed draft and promoting it "a mixed model" of governance with "many elements of parliamentary system."

Critics say the draft will transfer most of the presidential powers to PM, leaving the legislative body as “powerless, as it is now.” The critics, however, also acknowledge that the exception is the case when a new government is formed after the parliamentary election, when the source of formation of the executive branch is the Parliament.

The proposed draft has also triggered speculation that it is an attempt to pave the way for President Saakashvili to remain in power as PM after his second and final term-in-office expires in 2013. In an interview with the Russian newspaper, Vremya Novostei, published on August 23, Parliamentary Chairman Bakradze dismissed it as "unconscientious speculation" and said the proposed draft would not secure posts for anyone. 

Below are key points of the proposed draft:

PM/Government

  • The government becomes 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, including defense and interior ministers (under the current constitution dismissal of these two ministers is an exclusive right of President). PM's resignation will automatically lead to the resignation of the government.
  • Government’s powers are 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;
  • PM's candidacy is named by a party, which will garner most of the votes in parliamentary elections;
  • Government members are named by PM-designate;
  • Government needs support of majority of MPs to win confidence vote;
  • If government's powers are suspended for reasons other than parliamentary elections, President nominates PM's candidate proposed by a parliamentary majority. In case of absence of parliamentary majority, a candidate should be proposed by a largest parliamentary faction;
  • If Parliament fails to give confidence vote to government twice, President will nominate PM's candidacy named by two-fifth of lawmakers; but if even in that case the Parliament fails to give confidence vote, President will have the right to dissolve Parliament and call early elections;
  • It is only up to government to submit state budget to Parliament for consideration making these two responsible for entire budgetary matters, leaving out President; government will have a lead role and the Parliament's role will be limited in the budgetary matters;
  • Gov't has right to appeal Parliament for ratification or denunciation of int'l treaties (this provision was not including in the initial draft, passed by the state constitutional commission in May); President also enjoys with this right in some cases;
  • President will not have the right to appoint or dismiss ambassadors without government's approval;
  • PM appoints and dismisses provincial governors, instead of the President as it is under the current constitution (initial draft envisaged appointment of governors by PM with agreement with President);
  • PM will have the right of “counterassignation” of presidential decrees, which means that some decrees should be confirmed by PM's signature. However, this right by PM will not apply to a presidential acts concerning a decision to dissolve the Parliament; calling elections; initiation of a draft law and signing it into law; signing of int'l treaties; appointing members of the National Security Council, chief of staff of the armed forces and judges;
  • Gov't will have the right to request President to call for a referendum (the provision was not envisaged in the initial draft);
  • President should agree with gov't holding of negotiations with other countries (the provision was not in the initial draft);

President

  • President will remain the head of state, a commander-in-chief and will represent the country in foreign relations;
  • 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;
  • A natural born citizen of Georgia, who is at least 35 and has lived in Georgia for at least 15 years and lived permanently in Georgia for last three years at the time of elections;
  • President will not also have the right either to suspend or cancel legal acts issued by the government.
  • President will retain the right to appoint and dismiss chief of staff of the armed forces;
  • President will also retains important powers in the situations of emergency;
  • President will have the right to request a government meeting to discuss issues of special importance and to participate in this meeting (initial draft also envisaged that President could chair such government meeting, but this provision is removed from the final draft);
  • Issue of President's impeachment can be initiated by at least one-third of lawmakers. The issue will then be passed to the Constitutional Court. If the latter concludes that President's action contained signs of crime or violation of constitution, Parliament will have to vote whether to impeach or not President within 15 days. Votes of at least two-third of lawmakers will be required to impeach President.

Parliament

  • The Parliament has the right to pass government’s non-confidence vote; but the process will require lengthy and complex procedures; can only be initiated by majority of Parliament Members and the process should take no less than 60 days;
  • President has the right to reject nomination of PM's candidacy, when it is named by two-fifth of lawmakers (see also above in the section PM/Government), within five days; Parliament can overrule this presidential veto with support of three-fifth of lawmakers within no less than 35 days, otherwise President will have the right to dissolve the Parliament;
  • PM will have the right to raise the question of confidence in relation to a gov't-proposed draft law and if Parliament will not give confidence vote to the government, President will have the right to dissolve Parliament and call early elections;
  • Parliament will have the right to request PM dismissal of a cabinet member, although PM will have the right to reject such request;
  • Appointment of ambassadors will no longer require parliamentary approval;
  • 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; but setting up of such commission will still require Parliament's resolution, which has to be passed with majority vote of lawmakers present at a session;
  • Parliament will be able to overrule a presidential veto with majority vote of lawmakers, instead of currently needed support of two-third of Parliament members. However, this provision will not apply constitutional draft laws, when support of two-third of lawmakers will be required;

Other Provisions

  • President, PM and Parliamentary Chairperson's post can not be held by a person with double citizenship (in the initial draft, the provision also applied to all senior governmental posts);
  • A category of currently existing organic law is removed from the draft. A special majority is required for passing such laws. 
  • Age requirement of judges will increase from current 28 to 30 and their term in office will only expire after reaching a retirement age; a probationary period of not more than 3 years will be introduced for judges (this provision was not in the initial draft);
  • 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.

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