The Parliament of Georgia passed today with its first reading amendments to the newly-adopted constitution to incorporate several Venice Commission-recommended changes to the document.
According to the amendments, parties will be allowed to form election blocs for the next parliamentary election in 2020. Also, the so called bonus system, which entails transfer of votes of the parties that fail to cross the parliamentary threshold entirely to the winner, will be scrapped. Thus, undistributed mandates will be proportionally distributed among those parties, which clear a 5% election threshold during the parliamentary polls.
Additionally, constitutional grounds for restricting freedom of faith, confession and conscience will be redrawn, and “state security,” “preventing crime” and “administering justice” will be removed from the text.
Amendments will also be introduced to the Constitutional Court-related provisions. Under the revised constitution, the Court will be able to rule unconstitutional those election-specific norms, which were adopted during a 15-month period before elections, instead of a 12-month period as it is envisaged in the new constitution. Moreover, the provision, which sets the requirement of full consensus of the plenum of the Constitutional Court when deciding on constitutionality of the conducted elections, will be abolished.
The constitutional bill includes other changes as well, which have not been agreed with the Venice Commission, including to Article 5 of the new constitution, which defines the principles of a social state. A new sentence will be added there, reading: “the State shall take care of environmental protection, rational use of natural resources and sustainable ecological development of the country.”
Article 27 will also be amended, and the new wording will guarantee the “autonomy of higher educational institutions,” together with “academic freedom” as in the current document.
Some minor technical and editorial changes will also be introduced to the new constitution.
The Parliament of Georgia approved the new constitution on its third and final reading at its special sitting on September 26 with 117 lawmakers voting in favor and two against it. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote.
The ruling party pledged to make additional modifications to the document in late September in an attempt to obtain the Venice Commission endorsement, but was unable to amend the draft constitution (content-related changes can only be introduced during the first and the second readings), and had to initiate a new round of the constitutional amendment process in early November.
Under the country’s current constitution, constitutional amendments have to be confirmed at two consecutive parliamentary sessions. Therefore, the third and final hearing for today’s constitutional bill will have to be held during the spring session in 2018.
The new constitution will enter into force following the next presidential election in 2018.