Georgia – Constitutional revision

On 8 June 2009 President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia established a commission on constitutional reforms. This was part of deal that the President offered to the opposition in the face of their ongoing protests against his regime. My understanding is that not all opposition parties agreed to be part of the committee, but that at least five parties, in addition to the ruling National Movement, did agree. reports them as follows; Christian-Democratic Movement; National-Democratic Party; On Our Own; Democratic Party of Georgia; and Georgian Troupe. It seems as if the non-parliamentary opposition refused to be part of the process.

Anyway, RFE/RL reports that on 11 May the commission voted by 31 to 10 with 2 abstentions to approve a draft constitution (by which I think is meant amendments to the existing constitution). The draft was co-authored by a member of the ruling National Movement and a member of the opposition National Democratic Party.

The RFE/RL site has quite a lot of information about the document, though I have not been able to obtain the text. I will leave you to go to the site if you are interested in the details. The bottom line is that the commission seems to have recommended maintaining the country’s semi-presidential structure. However, the power of the president will be reduced. For example, the president will lose the right to dismiss the PM, making Georgia an example of premier-presidentialism.

The RFE/RL report concludes with the obvious political speculation. President Saakashvili is term-limited. Therefore, if he wishes to stay in power, then either he has to abolish term limits, which western governments would be against, or he has to strengthen the position of the PM at the expense of the president. It looks as if this is the path he has chosen. Despite the very active opposition in Georgia, there seems little doubt that the National Movement party would be returned as the largest party in the legislature and the draft constitution is reported to include the provision that the prime minister will be selected by the party that has the greatest number of parliamentary seats. So, the fact that the president’s powers are likely to be reduced and that at least part of the the opposition was included in the constitution-making process should not hide the fact that the proposed amendments are likely to allow Saakashvili to remain in a position of authority. That said, the shift to premier-presidentialism would be welcome.

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