Parliament passed on October 15 amendments to the constitution with its third and final reading, which will significantly reduce powers of next president in favor of PM and the government.
The new constitution will go into force upon the inauguration of the next president, who is scheduled to be elected in October, 2013.
As soon as the new constitution goes into force in 2013, the government existing at the time will resign to give way to the Parliament, elected in 2012, to compose the new government.
Below are key points of Georgia’s new constitution:
- The government becomes the supreme body of the executive branch, which directs and executes the country’s foreign and domestic policy and which is accountable before the Parliament;
- Prime Minister has the right to appoint and dismisses other members of the government, including defense and interior ministers (under the current constitution dismissal of these two ministers is an exclusive right of President). PM’s resignation will automatically lead to the resignation of the government;
- Government’s powers are suspended as soon the mandate of newly-elected Parliament is approved, and not upon electing a new President, as it is envisaged by the current constitution;
- PM’s candidacy is named by a political party, which will garner most of the votes in parliamentary elections;
- Government members are named by PM-designate;
- Government needs support of majority of MPs to win confidence vote;
- If government’s powers are suspended for reasons other than parliamentary elections, President nominates PM’s candidate proposed by a parliamentary majority. In case of absence of parliamentary majority, a candidate should be proposed by a largest parliamentary faction;
- If Parliament fails to give confidence vote to government twice, President will nominate PM’s candidacy named by two-fifth of lawmakers; but if even in that case the Parliament fails to give confidence vote, President will have the right to dissolve Parliament and call early elections;
- It is only up to government to submit state budget to Parliament for consideration making these two responsible for entire budgetary matters, leaving out President; government will have a lead role and the Parliament’s role will be limited in the budgetary matters;
- Gov’t has right to request the Parliament ratification or denunciation of int’l treaties; President also enjoys with this right in some cases, but with the government’s consent;
- President will not have the right to appoint or dismiss ambassadors without government’s approval (it will no longer be up to the Parliament to approve ambassadorial nominations);
- The government (and not PM unilaterally, as it was envisaged by the initial draft) appoints and dismisses provincial governors, instead of the President as it is under the current constitution;
- PM will have the right of “counterassignation” of presidential decrees, which means that most of the presidential decrees will require confirmation by PM’s signature. However, this right of PM will not apply to presidential acts issued during war; as well as acts concerning a decision to dissolve the Parliament; calling elections; signing drafts into law; appointing judges; in the initial draft no PM’s counterassignation was required for the presidential acts on appointment of top military brass, but in the final text PM and the government will have a say in this process too;
- Gov’t will have the right to request President to call for a referendum;
- President requires government’s consent on holding international talks or in case of signing international treaties.
- No less than 2/5 of the total members of the Parliament, i.e. at least 60 lawmakers will have the right to request for launching of non-confidence vote;
- The process will be deemed as started if more than half of MPs support it; this vote can only take place not earlier than 20 days and no later than 25 days;
- If as a result of this vote the process is endorsed, the Parliament shall, not earlier than 20 days and no later than 25 days, hold a separate vote on a nomination of new prime ministerial candidate, selected by at least 2/5 of MPs;
- If a new candidate is supported, then the President comes into play;
- The President should, within 5 days, either endorse the nomination or reject;
- In case of presidential veto on a new prime ministerial candidate, the Parliament will have the right to vote for nomination of a same candidate no earlier than 15 and no later than 20 days;
- But to override the presidential veto, the Parliament will need at least three-fifth of its members’ support, which is 90 MPs; while in other cases, such as vetoed laws (except of constitutional amendments), the Parliament will need only absolute majority (76 votes);
- If the Parliament fails to override the veto, president will have the right, within three days, to dissolve the legislative body and call for early elections.
- President will remain the head of state, a commander-in-chief and will represent the country (and not be a supreme representative as it is under the current constitution) in foreign relations;
- President will no longer direct and exercise domestic and foreign policy of the state - as the current constitution says. This authority will be delegated to PM and the government;
- A citizen of Georgia (and not natural born citizen as it was initially envisaged), who is at least 35 years old and has lived in Georgia for at least 5 years (instead of initial version of 15 years) and lived permanently in Georgia for last three years at the time of elections will be eligible to run for presidency;
- President will have no right to hold a decision-making post in a political party, although will retain the right to be a member of a party;
- President will have the right to appoint or dismiss chief of staff of the armed forces and other top military commanders only with agreement of the government;
- President will not have the right to initiate draft laws;
- President will not have the right to convene an emergency session of the Parliament;
- President will not have the right to call for a referendum;
- President will have the right to nominate members of telecommunications and energy regulatory commissions but only with an agreement of gov’t;
- President will have the right to nominate head of government of Adjara Autonomous Republic, but only after consultations with political parties and with an agreement of central gov’t;
- Issue of President’s impeachment can be initiated by at least 1/3 of lawmakers. The issue will then be passed to the Constitutional Court. If the latter concludes that President’s action contained signs of crime or violation of constitution, Parliament will have to vote whether to impeach or not President within 15 days. Votes of at least 2/3 of lawmakers will be required to impeach President.
- PM will have the right to raise before the Parliament the question of confidence of gov’t in relation to initiated draft law; the Parliament has to vote on the draft law within 14 days with one hearing (and not with three hearing as usually) or vote non-confidence to gov’t;
- If the Parliament fails with vote of non-confidence it will not result into dissolving of the legislative body; it will mean that the draft law is adopted;
- Although the Parliament will have the right to raise a question of responsibility of an individual cabinet member, the constitution does not specify what follows next and what might be the result of such demand by the Parliament;
- Appointment of ambassadors will no longer require parliamentary approval;
- One fifth of lawmakers, instead of current one fourth, will be able to initiate setting up of parliamentary investigative commission or other type of ad hoc commission; but setting up of such commission will still require Parliament’s resolution, which has to be passed with majority vote of lawmakers present at a session;
- Parliament will be able to overrule a presidential veto with majority vote of lawmakers, instead of currently needed support of two-third of Parliament members. However, this provision will not apply constitutional draft laws, when support of two-third of lawmakers will be required;
- Parliament’s role in respect of budgetary issues becomes limited;
- Parliament will have the right to monitor budgetary spending through Chamber of Control - the main state audit agency; under the current constitution the legislative body can monitor state spending directly and in case of violations can demand suspension of such spending; the Parliament will be deprived of this right under the new constitution;
- President, PM and Parliamentary Chairperson’s post can not be held by a person with double citizenship (in the initial draft, the provision also applied to all senior governmental posts);
- Age requirement of judges will increase from current 28 to 30;
- Term in office of judges of lower courts will expire after reaching a retirement age; the provision does not apply to judges of Supreme Court;
- A probationary period of not more than 3 years will be introduced for judges;
- Revision of the constitution will become more complicated as a proposed amendment will have to be adopted by two-third of all MPs in two subsequent sessions with a three-month interval.