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UNM Sets Conditions for its Support to GD's Constitutional Changes
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 4 Feb.'13 / 18:37

President Saakashvili’s UNM party says it will support Georgian Dream-initiated constitutional amendments on presidential powers if the parliamentary majority in return supports UNM’s proposal on making country’s pro-Western foreign policy course constitutionally guaranteed.

In addition UNM has also called for increasing bar for passing any future constitutional amendment from current two-third to three-fourth of MPs votes in exchange for its support to Georgian Dream-initiated constitutional amendment on presidential powers.

Although Georgian Dream (GD) coalition has enough votes in the Parliament to override a presidential veto – 89 (total of 91 MPs voted in December in favor of overturning presidential veto on amnesty bill), it still falls short of two-third majority – 100, required for passing constitutional amendments.

In December PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s GD parliamentary majority offered a constitutional amendment under which President Saakashvili retains all of his current powers, except of the one which allows him to appoint new government even if the Parliament refuses to confirm President-nominated cabinet.

On February 4, the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority released a written statement calling on UNM lawmakers to voice their clear-cut position in a form of “yes” or “no” on a question whether they support or not the proposed constitutional amendments on presidential powers and to engage in televised debates on the issue.

“Our attitude towards each of them [UNM MPs] will depend on their answer – we deem it sensible to cooperate and engage on other issues as well with those who will give ‘yes’ answer, but we cannot waste our time on listening and debating on any other issue as well with those who will give ‘no’ answer,” GD parliamentary majority’s statement reads.

“Even if Saakashvili does not allow his team and individual members to take a right step and if the constitutional amendment fails to garner enough votes, the Georgian Dream coalition’s political goal will anyway be achieved. In this case democratic world will eventually ascertain that in the person of Mikheil Saakashvili we have to deal with power-loving, confused dictator and in the person of UNM we have to deal with people, who are on the path of political self-destruction, who follow one man’s whims, who have been deprived of their freedom and whose words should worth nothing both inside and outside the country,” says GD’s statement, which was read out by parliamentary majority leader Davit Saganelidze.

In response UNM parliamentary minority leader Davit Bakradze said that despite of “pressure” on UNM lawmakers exerted from the new authorities to switch sides, GD failed to attract enough votes of MPs to pass its constitutional amendments and was now resorting to the language of “ultimatum.”

He said that if PM Ivanishvili’s government “fears” that it would be sacked by President Saakashvili, UNM was ready to help in “removing this fears”, but at the same time GD should also help in “removing other fears existing among the part of the society” related to possible change of the country’s foreign policy course.

Bakradze said that in exchange for UNM lawmakers’ support on the constitutional amendment, GD should support UNM’s proposal on including a new clause in the constitutional making it binding for any government of Georgia to pursue NATO and EU integration policy and to ban joining Russian-led organizations such as Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

UNM has also demanded to set higher bar for constitutional amendments.

In December 2011 the previous Parliament passed a constitutional amendment according to which starting from late 2013 the Parliament will require support of three-fourth of lawmakers (113), instead of current two-third MPs (100) in order to endorse any constitutional change. UNM now calls to enforce this provision now instead of later this year.

Tina Khidasheli, a lawmaker from the Republican Party, part of the GD coalition, said there would be no trade-off with UNM over these issues.

UNM secretary general, Vano Merabishvili, said that GD had no 100 votes in the Parliament required for endorsing the constitutional amendment and if during the voting GD-initiated amendment receives enough votes it would mean that “PM Ivanishvili abused his powers, exerted pressure on National Movement and blackmailed” UNM lawmakers.”

Back in 2004 when the Parliament passed major constitutional amendments, among others, allowing President Saakashvili to sack the government and appoint new cabinet without the legislative body’s authorization, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, said that such amendment “is difficult to accept.”

President of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, who visited Georgia last week, said that there were “urgent” issues in the constitutional that required to be addressed soon.

“I understand that for the sake of stability of the government and the Parliament after the last parliamentary elections it is necessary to change the constitution in order to limit powers of the head of state [the President] to dismiss the government and appoint new government without the authorization of the Parliament,” Buquicchio said; he, however, also that he did not believe that President Saakashvili had an intention to dismiss PM Ivanishvili’s government.

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