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Is Saakashvili ready to rewrite Constitution?05.02.2010 | 23:27
The West urges Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to significantly amend the constitution. According to Gianni Buchicchio, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission president, presidential powers must be reduced in order to balance all power branches. Besides the commission's experts also advocate liberalization of the law on manifestations. Will Saakashvili follow these recommendations?
Georgian constitution criticized by Venice Commission is not a surprise. Concentration of power in the hands of the country leader and limitation of freedom of media and courts have become a trademark of current regime in Georgia. It was Gianni Buchicchio, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission president who reminded of Mikheil Saakashvili's old sores. He is convinced that power must be equally distributed between three branches of government and the parliament's dependence on the Georgian president must be reduced by authorizing deputies to control the activities of the president and grant more independence to courts. "Only free and independent court can ensure development of a democratic state", - Buchicchio added. In his opinion Georgia's new
constitution must be adopted on the basis of a wide consensus between all political parties and forces of the country.
Moreover, the commission's experts staying in Georgia emphasized need for reconsideration of the law on manifestations. Experts believe that limiting the right to assembly does not contradict Venice convention and certain limitations are really possible but stipulating max 20-m approximation to state buildings is simply unwise.
Recommendations digested, Mikheil Saakashvili expressed his readiness to reconsider the Constitution to render the main legal document of Georgia more balanced and compliant with European standards, as well as to amend the law on manifestations. Will the Georgian leader turn promises into real acts? This is what GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed with the Georgian opposition.
What do you think about recommendations by Venice commission?
Ivlian Khaidrava, Republican Party member, politologist
At a certain moment we condemned constitution amendments that widened presidential powers considerably. The system of counterbalance was corrupted and we got all power concentrated in the hands of the president, in his office. The parliament became even more impotent and the judicial power turned into an appendix of the executive power. Some more steps were made in this direction: the constitution lost a clause forbidding integration of the Interior and Security ministries. So we have this monster of the Interior Ministry that controls literally everything and everyone. The situation is really alarming. The president of Venice Commission confirmed what we've been discussing for all these years. As early as in 2004 the commission criticized amendments to the constitution providing negative evaluation thereafter. That is why Buchicchio's verdict is not a surprise to me - he only reconfirmed the commission's position that constitutional process in Georgia has been developing in a totally undemocratic direction.
Possible accretion of the parliament's powers should be viewed in the context of Saakashvili's far-reaching plans. His second presidential term is drawing to a close. 2013 is not that far away. Now Georgia discusses possibility of introducing the Russian model with ex president as a PR so a lot will depend on Saakashvili's pretensions and his intention to retain power after the end of his second term in office. Under the current constitution the role of Prime Minister is rather formal. In 2013 amendments to the constitution will be introduced anyway. I can't say how the currently ruling team will try to preserve it for the future. But it's a fact they will do their best for that.
Soso Shatberashvili, Labor Party secretary general
Not only Georgian president's powers must be abridged. It is necessary to turn the country into a parliamentary republic. Unfortunately all Georgian presidents grow into dictators with time. I would like Georgia to have a new president and a new parliament elected through fair elections. Then the new parliament and the new president will devise a new constitution. Saakashvili is simply unable to work on this document since the only thing on his mind is how to preserve power and avoid responsibility before people of Georgia, including responsibility for the war in 2008. That is why neither he nor the parliament with its uneducated members can adopt any document, specifically a constitution.
Georgy Gachechiladze, Greens of Georgia party leader