President Saakashvili’s annual state of the nation address in the Parliament, which was scheduled for February 8, has been postponed to an undefined date amid controversy over Georgian Dream-initiated constitutional amendments over presidential powers.
Proposal to postpone the President’s annual address was made by the Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority.
“We respect the constitution including the rights of the President, but at the same time we respect ourselves as well and we want the President’s address to be made in the Parliament which is empowered with appropriate authority and not in the Parliament whose decisions might be unilaterally overturned by the President,” Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary chairman, said on February 7.
“So our position is that the President will of course be given an opportunity to make his annual address in the Parliament, but it will only happen after a decision is made on this concrete issue [on constitutional amendments related to presidential powers] or after the President and his political team explicitly express position on this concrete issue,” Usupashvili said at a parliamentary bureau session.
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 sack the sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s authorization.
Lawmakers held debates on the issue of presidential powers in respect of appointing new government on February 6. UNM lawmakers say that they will support GD-initiated constitutional amendment only if in parallel the Parliament also passes a constitutional amendment making pro-Western foreign policy course binding for the government. UNM also wants increasing bar for passing any future constitutional amendment from current two-third to three-fourth of MPs votes in exchange for its support to GD-initiated constitutional amendment on presidential powers.
GD lawmakers are against of discussing UNM’s proposal in the same package with the constitutional amendments on presidential powers.
“I want to state on behalf of the President and on behalf of the parliamentary minority group that we were ready for [President’s] address, but today we heard the position of the parliamentary majority, which as it seems is not ready for this address and debates,” said MP Davit Bakradze, leader of the UNM parliamentary minority group. "It is regrettable that our colleagues from the parliamentary majority were not ready for this address."
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said on February 5 that he and his government members had no intention to attend President’s annual address in the Parliament. “What new is he going to say? Probably new lies,” Ivanishvili said.