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April theses: “no” to a president, “yes” to a parliamentary republic

16.04.2009  |  16:13

4/0/2/2402.jpegWhether Rustaveli Avenue can expect calm over Easter is the major question. Despite all the years of troubles having brought Georgians back into the lap of the church. Opposition activists are not intending to leave their tented villages. But many people are asking whether the great Orthodox celebration will lead the way to dialogue, which everyone is calling for but is doing nothing to actually achieve. If a compromise is found and Georgia switches to a parliamentary model of government, what will happen next?


By the middle of the week, the situation in Georgia is as follows: despite the fact that the inflamed passions have disappointed many, and less and less people are taking part in the protest actions every day, the radical opposition are not backing down. Roads are being blocked off, state institutions are being picketed. The authorities are demonstrating restraint. There have been several unexplained incidents, but no riot police with truncheons. Experts are saying that a test of endurance has started. Judging by the situation, the victor will not be determined that soon. At least, on 15th April the leader of the Movement for a United Georgia, Eka Beselia, declared that after the Easter celebrations, the opposition will start to mobilize its supporters in

Georgia's regions.

Meanwhile, Saakashvili has suggested to his opponents that they all sit round the negotiating table and discuss a change to the electoral code and amendments to the constitution strengthening the power of parliament. The opposition is rejecting this proposal. Although many within its ranks are insisting that Georgia must become a parliamentary republic. Will Saakashvili go this far? To what extent does a parliamentary system of government suit Georgia, when politicians frequently cannot come to an agreement? And what could Georgians expect from such a change to the state structure? Your GeorgiaTimes correspondent has asked Georgian and Russian analysts to give their opinion on these questions.

Mamuka Areshidze, Director of the Caucasian Centre for Strategic Research, is convinced that in order to pull itself out of the crisis, Georgia needs to switch to a parliamentary form of government: "Both the opposition and the leadership have got themselves into a hopeless situation and are taking radical steps. I think that there needs to be a considered approach from both sides. One side needs to make appropriate demands, and the other needs to make an appropriate response. And a parliamentary republic could draw a line under the situation."

Irakli Menagarishvili, head of the Centre for Strategic Research and Development and former foreign minister under President Eduard Shevardnadze, notes that parliamentary rule is precisely a matter for discussion between the leadership and the opposition. The political elite is obviously looking for a state structure where a balance will be kept between the branches of power. In Menagarishvili's opinion, a switch to a parliamentary model is entirely realistic. But here is the condition - as long as consensus is reached. Menagarishvili reminds the opponents that the form doesn't define the content. The introduction of a new form of state government can hardly be regarded as a panacea. There are numerous other problems which need to be solved. Notably, increasing the overall level of political culture and solving economic tasks. He notes that this is a problem for all post-Soviet states. To the question of whether all the numerous parties, movements and alliances will be able to be reduced to a common denominator if a parliamentary republic is established, Menagarishvili replies that he finds it hard to predict: "I can only express my hope that a consensus will be found. Although I'll emphasize that the switch to a parliamentary system of government is just one aspect of the necessary reforms."

Lichno Kublashvili, a representative of the parliamentary majority, thinks that the model of a parliamentary republic is unacceptable and ineffective. "A presidential republic is the best option for Georgia," he is quoted by VZGLYAD. At the same time, Kublashvili noted that the authorities are willing to discuss the issue of switching from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary one with the opposition.

How do Russian experts assess the possibility of Georgia turning into a parliamentary republic? Would this help to improve relations with Russia?


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