For once, this is a fairly timely post. Yesterday the Russian parliament passed a resolution asking President Medvedev to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So, I thought that I would post about the constitutional situation both areas.
Obviously, both are officially part of Georgia. However, as events in the past weeks have reminded us, both have had more than a certain degree of de facto independence. Specifically, both have their own constitutions.
The most recent constitution of Abkhazia was adopted in 1994. It establishes a presidential system. There is a prime minister, but there is only individual ministerial responsibility (Art. 58).
As far as I understand it, South Ossetia adopted its first constitution in 1993. Robert M. Cutler in an online article gives further information. He states: “On 8 April 2001, South Ossetia held a referendum on proposed changes to its constitution that were intended to increase presidential power. Voter turnout was roughly two-thirds, of whom two-thirds again approved the changes. Because the referendum was held by the ‘Republic of South Ossetia’ on its own initiative without central Georgian participation, the EU and the OSCE condemned it, declaring it illegal and void”.
As far as I can tell, there is a constitution online (in Russian) that dates back to 1996. However, there is also another constitution (also in Russian) that seems current. So, I assume that it includes the more recent changes. I can let anyone who is interested have the PDF version that I have found. I would like to thank a colleague for translating the necessary details for me.
There are similarities between the South Ossetia constitution and the Russian constitution. The president is popularly elected (Art. 7), heads the exec, guides foreign and domestic policy (Art. 47), and appoints the PM subject to parliamentary approval (Art. 50). The government resigns after presidential elections (Art. 75) and if parliament votes no confidence in the government, the president can ignore the vote the first time but must dismiss the government after a second such vote (if the votes are taken within the space of 2 months) (Art. 76).