Georgia – Cohabitation

There is plenty going on in Georgia at the moment. The new period of cohabitation has started to become more conflictual. I have posted links to various items on the Facebook page, but here is a general summary.

On 25 December another opposition UNM deputy defected to the government’s side. Extrapolating from a Civil.Ge report, this now means that the government bloc is supported by 90 deputies. There are 150 deputies in total. So, this means that if all the non-UNM deputies vote together, then the government has a three-fifths majority, which is enough to overturn a presidential veto.

This arithmetic was immediately (and perhaps not coincidentally?) put to the test on 27 December when President Saakashvili announced that he was vetoing a government bill that would provide an amnesty for various prisoners. According to another Civil.Ge report, President Saakashvili objected to the idea that political prisoners were being released, declaring that there were none in Georgia.

On 28 December Civil.Ge then reported that parliament had voted by 91-24 to overturn President Saakashvili’s veto. This vote clearly sets a precedent. The president now knows that he cannot delay the majority’s legislation. This may actually encourage him not to veto legislation.

Almost immediately there was another development. On 28 December Civil.Ge reported that the government was planning to introduce a constitutional amendment. The situation is a little complicated but it seems to be designed to plug a loophole in the constitution.

Basically, Georgia still has a president-parliamentary system. So, President Saakashvili can dismiss the PM and government. The constitution states that if the new PM is not approved by parliament after three votes, then the president has to dissolve the legislature. However, the constitution also states that the legislature cannot be dissolved in the six months following a parliamentary election (which was held in October 2012) and in the six months prior to a presidential election (which is due to be held in October 2013). So, this raises the possibility that President Saakashvili could dismiss the government, appoint his own PM and government, and avoid having to face new parliamentary elections before the presidential election.

The government plans to plug this loophole by not allowing the president to appoint a government before the next election. So, even if President Saakashvili were to dismiss the current government, it would stay in office until that time.

The problem for the government is that it still needs about 9 or 10 more votes in parliament to amend the constitution. The government has announced that it has dropped plans to try to decrease the president’s powers generally. So, maybe this ‘concession’ will be enough to allow the proposed ‘procedural’ amendment to gain enough support to pass.

My guess Georgia is that there will be plenty of articles about cohabitation in Georgia in the coming years!

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