(Sept. 23, 2010) After the constitutionally required month of public discussions regarding the change of the nation's Constitution following the approval of the draft by the country's Constitutional Commission on July 21, 2010, the Parliament of Georgia added the issue of constitutional amendments to its agenda and began deliberations of the new draft of the Constitution on September 10, 2010. If adopted, this version of the Constitution will transform Georgia, which at present has a strong executive presidency, into a parliamentary republic.
The opposition states that the adoption of the new Constitution is an attempt by the ruling political party, the Unified National Movement, to preserve the power position of the incumbent President of Georgia, Mikhael Saakashvili, whose second and last term of office expires in 2013. If implemented, the revised Constitution will allow him to become a Prime Minister, preserving all his instruments of power. (Georgi Dvali & Gennady Sysoev, Gruzinskaia Konstitutsiia Perepisyvaetsa pod Premyera [Georgian Constitution Is Rewritten for the Prime Minister] [in Russian], KOMMERSANT, No. 166 (Sept. 9, 2010), http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1500107&print=true.)
According to the draft Constitution, the Parliament will be the country's leading political institution and will form the government. The President will play a secondary role in the political process and will only be able to interfere in the appointment of the Government if there is an institutional crisis in which Parliament is not be able to form the Cabinet of Ministers. Despite the fact that the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe advisory commission on constitutional affairs) preliminarily approved the draft because the enhanced role of a parliament follows the European tradition, the Georgian opposition believes that the new Constitution will confirm the “Saakashvili dictatorship”and that it is a way to expand his presence in power by legal means. The Labor Party of Georgia recommended a five-year ban on former presidents serving as the Prime Minister, but this proposal was not supported by the Constitutional Commission because, as its Chairman said, “[no] one can prohibit a politician from moving from one position to another.” (Id.)
It is expected that the Parliament will vote for the new Constitution soon after the draft is formally approved by the Venice Commission, which is scheduled to consider the document in late October 2010. (Press Release, The Press Conference by the Venice Commission, Parliament of Georgia website, http://www.parliament.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=63&info_id
=29036 (last visited Sept. 21, 2010).) There is almost no doubt that these amendments will be passed. The current Constitution states a vote of 100 out of 150 parliamentarians is required for the adoption of constitutional changes. (Constitution of the Republic of Georgia, art. 102) The ruling pro-President party controls about 130 seats in the parliament today. (For information on party factions within the Parliament, see Parliament of Georgia website, http://www.parliament.ge/index.php?sec_id=1217&lang_id=ENG (last visited Sept. 21, 2010).)