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Georgian Parliament To Debate Constitutional Amendments In First Reading

Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Pavle Kublashvili said the final draft would reflect some of the proposed changes made by opposition parties during the public debate on the draft amendments.
The Georgian parliament will meet in emergency session on September 24 to approve the draft amendments to the new constitution in the first reading, even before the Council of Europe's Venice Commission unveils its final assessment and recommendations.

Meanwhile, Georgian opposition politicians continue to demand changes to the draft amendments in order to prevent President Mikheil Saakashvili from retaining supreme power as prime minister after his second presidential term expires in January 2013, and have called for extending the debate on the draft amendments by at least a couple of months.

Representatives of the extra-parliamentary opposition for their part complained on September 22 that they still have not seen the final text of the amendments. People's Party member Aleksandr Shalamberidze was quoted by as saying that "our government makes verbal statements but does not show anyone the documents.... Things are moving so fast, they are constantly changing the draft and we simply can't keep track of which draft will be submitted to parliament."

Parliament Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Pavle Kublashvili told on September 22 that his committee would meet today to make the final changes to the draft amendments. Echoing earlier reassurances by parliament speaker David Bakradze, Kublashvili said the final draft would reflect some of the proposed changes made by opposition parties during the public debate on the draft amendments.

But Kublashvili added that the final version would not incorporate changes proposed last week by visiting experts from the Council of Europe's Venice Commission with regard to the complicated and time-consuming procedure for the parliament to vote no confidence in the government. That procedure was one of three provisions the commission assessed as problematic in its preliminary assessment of the amendments, which was made public in June.

Kublashvili also implied that parliament might vote on the final amendments in the second and third readings even before the Venice Commission makes its final recommendations, which it plans to do by mid-October. Kublashvili said he thought that "the final conclusion already exists" in the form of the commission's preliminary assessment, which President Saakashvili largely rejected.

Venice Commission Secretary Thomas Markert was quoted as telling a press conference in Tbilisi on September 17 that "constitutional reform in any country is a political process, and it is normal that political considerations prevail over expert advice."

The Venice Commission reportedly did manage, however, to persuade the Georgian authorities to remove from the draft the proposed abolition of the concept of an "organic law" that can be amended only by means of a two-thirds majority vote of all 150 lawmakers, according to Avtandil Demetrashvili, the law professor who chaired the commission that drafted the amendments. It is not clear at what stage that proposal found its way into the draft; Demetrashvili was quoted by Caucasus Press on September 13 as saying he is against abolishing the concept of organic laws and would do his best to persuade lawmakers that doing so would be counterproductive.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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