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No Major Constitutional Reform Planned Before Elections
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 May.'13 / 20:27

There is not enough time to carry out major constitutional reform before the October, 2013 presidential elections, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili said, which means that the new constitutional provisions, adopted in 2010, will go into force as scheduled after this year’s presidential election, significantly increasing PM’s authority at the expense of cutting presidential powers.

Speaking at a news conference on May 8, Usupashvili said that although the new constitutional model, adopted by the previous authorities, “has many shortcomings” it would be enacted as scheduled after the inauguration of new president following October elections. He said it would be unacceptable to “hastily” introduce fundamental changes before the presidential elections.

He said that a commission on constitutional reform would be established before the end of May, which would include representatives from political parties and civil society. The commission, Usupashvili said, would be able to work “calmly” without haste and without eyeing upcoming presidential elections as a deadline. He said that as a result of this work Georgia should “at last have proper constitution in line with European democratic standards.”

Usupashvili, however, also said that in parallel separate constitutional amendments might be initiated before the end of May to address some of “the urgent” issues, which he declined to specify.

Back in 2010 when the new constitutional provisions were passed by the Parliament, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, welcomed some of those amendments as significant steps in the right direction compared to the existing system, which was introduced in 2004. It, however, also called for further strengthening the powers of the Parliament.

Although under the new constitutional provisions presidential powers will be significantly reduced, the new president, elected in October 2013, will retain an important role in case of non-confidence vote to the government, having the right to veto prime ministerial nomination by the Parliament. The procedure for non-confidence vote itself has been described by the Venice Commission as “lengthy and complex”, which may take 50-60 days or possibly even 70-80 days in case of the presidential veto on prime ministerial nominee.

Since its election in October 2012, the sitting Parliament has so far adopted one constitutional amendment, stripping the president of his power to sack the incumbent government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.

A second constitutional amendment, which was initiated by the Georgian Dream in December and which will pave the way for Parliament’s relocation from Kutaisi back to Tbilisi if ever approved, has been shelved and it remains unclear when, if at all, the Parliament plans to discuss it.

Usupashvili indicated that there might not be discussion of this constitutional amendment in the Parliament at least till this autumn. President Saakashvili and his UNM parliamentary minority group are strongly against of Parliament’s relocation from Kutaisi back to the capital city. He, however, also stressed that efforts were underway to renovate the old parliament building in Tbilisi; the previous government was intending to privatize that building on the Rustaveli Avenue and the building was emptied and its chambers gutted.

GD falls short of two-third majority (100 MPs) in the Parliament and requires support of UNM lawmakers for passing a constitutional amendment.

Passing of a constitutional amendment will become more difficult after the new constitutional provisions go into force after the October presidential election.

According to new provisions threshold for passing any constitutional amendment will increase from current two-third (100 MPs) to three-fourth (113 MPs) of majority.

In addition, in order for a constitutional amendment to be confirmed the Parliament should confirm it with three-fourth majority twice at two consecutive parliamentary sessions; for example if an amendment is confirmed at a spring session, the Parliament will have to re-confirm it at its autumn session and intervals between these two confirmations should be at least three months.

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