Constitution says NO to Authoritarian regime13.05.2010 | 00:08
State Constitution Commission of Georgia voted for the most democratic amendments to the country's supreme law. Surely it needs finalization to be passed over to parliament dominated by pro-presidential majority. But the society says a categorical no to authoritarian habits of their leader urging him to devolve part of his powers to Prime Minister appointed as a result of parliamentary election.
Last spring Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was ready for important concessions to cool down the society rallying for the president's resignation. As one of concessions he agreed to set up a committee on amendments to the constitution.
Amendments to the country's supreme law are aimed at turning Georgia into a parliamentary republic, as the opposition believes. If that had been so before the war in 2008 the probability of an armed conflict would have been reduced to zero. It was Saakashvili's authoritarian rule that let him launch the attack on Tskhinval taking no advice from less bellicose politicians.
However, when it came down to working out amendments, the opposition refused to sit together with representatives of the United National Movement setting up their Public Commission comprising such competent figures as Vakhtang Khmaladze, the author of the previous version of the Constitution.
Now both expert groups have finished their drafts submitting them to general public. Contrary to apprehensions of the opposition the governmental committee rejected the idea of a "super presidential" republic suggested by US-sponsored Liberty Institute. The idea had only 4 votes including those of Lasha Tordia and Paata Lezhava from the parliamentary majority.
Vasily Gonashvili's variant was also a failure with the majority of votes adopting the Constitution draft authored by Avtandil Demetrashvili, the commission chairman, and Tengiz Sharmanashvili, the secretary, as a basic one.
GeorgiaTimes asked Giya Nodia, director of Caucasus Institute of Peace and Democracy and a member of the governmental committee, to comment on the draft.
-The committee used a mixed draft as a basis. Executive power is divided between president and Prime Minister. But Prime Minister becomes dependent on the parliament. The chairman of government shall be appointed as a result of parliamentary election which is a step toward parliamentary system and it's of highest importance here.
-Was the draft somebody's proposal or is it a conglomerate of various versions?
-No, it's the result of the committee chairman's and the secretary's work and majority of experts of the committee decided the draft should be supported.
-Does this draft put constraints on the rights of president?
-Yes, and considerably. In reality this is closer to a parliamentary model of national government.
-It is believed that authoritarian regimes are most efficient in trying times. And now Georgia has an "external foe" as well as an "internal" one in the form of the "fifth column".
-Sure these questions will be brought up. The committee that comprises mostly NGO experts as well as politicians did vote for the draft. But speaking about representatives of the ruling party: one abstained since there is no consensus over the issue in the ruling party. The other said yes - but it was his personal decision, so to say.
-What is in store for this version?
-This version was taken as a basis. The amendments will be submitted to Venice commission for consideration. Certain issues and details will be finalized. After that, apparently, there will be a decision on the final draft that the commission will send to parliament. Finally it's up to parliament to decide what to adopt and how.
-What kind of follow-up revision will there be?
-I can't say, it's an open issue.
-Is there any reference to local governments in the draft? What will their powers be?
-Surely there is. The Constitution deals with this issue so amendments will affect local governments too in this way or other. Not radically though.
-It is believed that local governments are limited in their powers...
-Yes, it is true, but these powers are beyond the scope of the constitution. The constitution has nothing to do with that. Amendments contain statements that reinforce local administration without specification. Specific issues must be included in the law on local governments.
-Do you know if the Public Commission on amendments to the Constitution is operating or not after the opposition's refusal to cooperate with the government?
-What does that mean - public? There are opposition figures that in protest established...
-Did they cooperate with you?