Procedures have been launched for Georgian Dream-proposed draft of constitutional amendment, which, if approved, will likely lead to relocation of the legislative body from Georgia’s second-largest town of Kutaisi back to capital Tbilisi.
Parliament voted on December 17 to establish a group, which will lead one-month long public discussions on the proposed draft of constitutional amendments – a procedure required for any constitutional amendment after which a draft becomes eligible for the parliamentary vote.
The group, which is chaired by Georgian Dream (GD) MP Manana Kobakhidze, includes lawmakers from GD coalition and UNM party, as well as government and civil society representatives.
The proposed amendment offers to remove from the constitution a clause which makes it binding for the Parliament to be based in Kutaisi. Georgian Dream lawmaker Vakhtang Khmaladze, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs, says that the issue of Parliament’s location should be defined by the Parliament’s regulations, not by the constitution.
Although the Georgian Dream holds the majority of seats in the Parliament, it falls short of constitutional majority. While it is highly likely that GD will attract support from those six lawmakers, who quit UNM and formed a separate faction, it currently still falls 11 votes short of 100 required for passing a constitutional amendment. PM Bidzina Ivanishvili-led coalition hopes that it will be able to attract support of some UNM lawmakers at the time when the draft is put to the vote.
About GEL 360 million (up to USD 217 million) has been spent on construction of 40-meter high glass-domed new building for the Parliament in Kutaisi. At least GEL 15 million of additional funding is required to fully complete its construction, according to GD lawmaker Zurab Tkemaladze, who was tasked to study legal aspects of construction of the new Parliament building and its cost.
The old Parliament building in Tbilisi requires renovation. The previous government was intending to privatize the building and it has been emptied and its chamber, where parliamentary sittings were held, was gutted. GEL 2 million has been allocated with the recent amendments to the 2012 state budget for renovation works in the Parliament’s old building, but reportedly more than twice than that will be required for this purpose from the next year’s budget.