A model of the new Parliament building, designed by CMD Ingenieros. Its construction in Georgia’s second largest city of Kutaisi costs about USD 34.7 million, according to a ruling party lawmaker.
A constitutional amendment envisaging relocating the next Parliament from capital Tbilisi to the country’s second largest city of Kutaisi was passed with its first reading on June 21.
In September 2009 the Parliament passed constitutional amendment envisaging splitting of working venue of next Parliament to be elected in 2012 between Tbilisi and Kutaisi, located over 200 kilometers away from the capital. According to those amendments, the parliamentary sittings should be held in Kutaisi, while other activities, including parliamentary committee hearings should be held in the current parliamentary chamber in Tbilisi.
But according to the new constitutional amendment, passed with the first reading, Kutaisi will become the only place where the new legislative body, elected in 2012, will be located.
Construction of the new Parliament building is currently underway in Kutaisi.
Its construction costs GEL 57 million (about USD 34.7 million), according to a lawmaker from the ruling party, Zurab Melikishvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for finances and budget.
Deputy Justice Minister, Dimitri Dzagnidze, who presented the draft amendment to lawmakers listed following arguments behind the decision to relocate the Parliament to Kutaisi: “It will contribute to more engagement of regions in western Georgia in constitutional-legal processes, as well as in the process of ongoing state building; it will also contribute to balance between the branches of government, increase of the Parliament’s role, strengthening of respect to law, as well as the [relocation] is related with [development] of various infrastructure projects [in Kutaisi].”
“There are many funny and foolish [arguments] listed in the explanatory note [attached to the draft],” said during the discussions MP Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), a leading party in a small parliamentary minority group.
“According to one of them the move will contribute to engagement of western Georgia into [constitutional-legal] processes. Does it mean that the eastern part of the country has already been successfully engaged in these processes and that it has successfully learned everything about legal affairs and it no longer needs it?” he said.
MP Vepkhvadze said that the move would, as he put it, “castrate the Parliament” and “make it even more incapable”, because by moving the legislative body from proximity to the executive it would affect negatively on its oversight functions over the Tbilisi-based executive government.
He said that if the Parliament was relocating into Kutaisi, the government should also follow.
“In such case Kutaisi should fully be turned into the country’s political center with the government also based there,” MP Vepkhvadze said, adding that in that case President, whose role is envisaged as "an arbiter" under the new constitutional model to be enforced from late 2013, can stay in Tbilisi, as a symbol of distancing itself from both the Parliament and the executive.
“Another option would be to have two-chamber Parliament with one based in Kutaisi and another one in Tbilisi,” he added.
Ruling party lawmakers said that a separate building to house executive government representation would be built in Kutaisi.
Parliament building in Tbilisi; its construction was completed in 1953. The government has an intention to sell the building after the Parliament’s relocation to Kutaisi.
Leader of CDM, Giorgi Targamadze, said the move would question status of Tbilisi as a political capital of the country and the authorities were trying to depoliticize the capital city, suggesting that authorities wanted to reduce political weight of Tbilisi, which is more pro-opposition than other parts of the country. He said that putting of the issue on a referendum would have been more appropriate.
This May President Saakashvili said that Georgia would have three major centers – Tbilisi, which he described as “the capital of Caucasus”; Batumi – “economic-financial center of Georgia” and Kutaisi – “the parliamentary capital” of Georgia.
Echoing those remarks, MP from ruling party Akaki Bobokhidze said, that with relocation of the Parliament the country would gain third center, which would contribute “to decentralization of the political life.”
Lawmakers from the ruling party dismissed opponents criticism saying that parliamentary minority lawmakers simply do not want to leave the capital and work in Kutaisi if elected in the next Parliament.
“No need to be excessively nervous. Nothing special is happening – the legislative body in one city [Kutaisi] and the executive government in another city [Tbilisi],” said Pavle Kublashvili, a ruling party lawmaker, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs.
One of the sources of criticism is that the move is causing unjustified expanses.
After the relocation of the Parliament, the government intends to sell the building in which the legislative body is currently located in the center of Tbilisi on the Rustaveli Avenue.
MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, the leader of parliamentary majority, said that the expenses related to construction of the new building “will be balanced with the old building.”
A model of new chamber of the Parliament inside the planned glass dome building in Kutaisi.
“Especially if we take into consideration that real estate prices will be much higher at that time,” MP Tsiskarishvili said.
MP from the parliamentary minority, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, asked ruling party MPs what would happen with up to 700 employees of the Parliament after the relocation. Ruling party lawmakers responded that during staff recruitment priority would be given to those already working in the legislative body if they agree to also move to Kutaisi.
To give way for construction of the new Parliament building in Kutaisi, the authorities blown up World War II memorial in December, 2009; explosion was carried out with violation of safety standards resulting into death of a mother and her child.
40-meter high glass dome building of the Parliament, designers say, will symbolize transparency and its 200-meter long thin shell concrete structure, covering the glass-dome like a stripe, will be a symbol of strength.
The new Parliament building, designed by CMD Ingenieros, will have 4,200 square meters of common space with 217 offices and 11 conference rooms.