MPs Debate on Presidential Powers
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Feb.'13 / 23:48

An agreement on constitutional changes over presidential powers will help to pave the way for cooperation between UNM and Georgian Dream (GD) on other pressing issues, Parliament Chairman Davit Usupashvili said during parliamentary debates on February 6.

In December PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s GD parliamentary majority offered a constitutional amendment under which President Saakashvili retains all of his current powers, except of the one which allows him to sack the sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s authorization.

Although Georgian Dream (GD) coalition has enough votes in the Parliament to override a presidential veto – 89 (total of 91 MPs voted in December in favor of overturning presidential veto on amnesty bill), it still falls short of two-third majority – 100, required for passing constitutional amendments.

It is not yet clear when the draft will be put on vote in the Parliament. In lead up to formal discussion of the draft at the parliamentary session, a debate was held in the legislative body upon GD’s request on the topic whether the President should have the right to sack the government and appoint new one without Parliament’s authorization.

During the debates, which at one point briefly grew into a shouting match, UNM lawmakers’ argued that that GD-initiated constitutional amendment was irrelevant and “waste of time” because of two reasons – such amendment will anyway go into force after the presidential elections in October, when the new constitution takes effect and meantime President Saakashvili anyway has no intention to use his powers to sack PM Ivanishvili’s government and appoint the new cabinet.

UNM lawmakers also reiterated that they would support this proposal only if in parallel the Parliament also passes a constitutional amendment making pro-Western foreign policy course binding for the government. UNM also wants increasing bar for passing any future constitutional amendment from current two-third to three-fourth of MPs votes in exchange for its support to GD-initiated constitutional amendment on presidential powers.

GD lawmakers, who are against of discussing UNM’s proposal in the same package with the constitutional amendments on presidential powers, say that limiting President Saakashvili’s authority in respect of appointing new cabinet will help “to lower the political temperature” and boost political stability in the period of uneasy cohabitation.

“Taking joint step on this specific issue will pave the way for resolving all the other issues not as you [referring to UNM lawmakers] want them to be resolved, but also not as we want them to be resolved – that is moving forward through compromises and agreements,” Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary speaker, said.

He offered to make UNM-proposed issues part of a discussion within a planned commission, which will work on broader constitutional amendments.

Usupashvili also said that while UNM had levers to “hamper” country’s development, but not to reverse it. “The country is in safe hands and its development will continue,” Usupashvili said.
During the debates senior GD lawmaker, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, said that President Saakashvili “has this dictatorial right” to appoint the new cabinet without Parliament’s confirmation and “no one knows whether he will use this right or not.”

A senior UNM lawmaker, Pavle Kublashvili, said that he would not support GD-proposed constitutional amendment “when my colleagues are under pressure” – referring to UNM’s allegations that some of its lawmakers were pressured by the new authorities to quit the parliamentary minority and vote for the constitutional changes. MP Kublashvili said that he would not vote for it because of “language of ultimatums”, which, he said, was used by PM Ivanishvili, referring to latter’s remarks that the way how UNM lawmakers vote over these constitutional changes would determine their future political fate.

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