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Parliamentary Session to Discuss Constitutional Amendments on Friday
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Sep.'10 / 20:36

A special sitting of the Parliament was convened for September 24 to discuss proposed draft of constitutional amendments with the first reading, MP Pavle Kublashvili, chairman of the parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said on Wednesday.

Kublashvili told Civil.ge that the final text of the draft, which will be discussed by the Parliament, would be ready after his committee discusses it at a hearing on September 23. He said the final text would reflect those changes, which were recommended at a closing session of the commission, which led series public discussions on the draft in August.

He also said that the Parliament would define an exact timeframe of passing the draft with its second and final, third readings.

When asked whether the Parliament will wait for a final conclusion of the Venice Commission regarding the constitutional amendments, which will be ready by mid-October, Kublashvili said: “No, I think that the final conclusion of the Venice Commission in respect of this issue already exists [referring to the Venice Commission’s preliminary opinion] and we have already taken a great part of their remarks into consideration and they have confirmed it during their visit [to Georgia].”

A delegation of the Venice Commission said upon the conclusion of their visit last week that it was told by the Georgian authorities that even though the draft might be endorsed with first reading before the Commission’s final recommendations would become available, it was still possible to further amend the draft, possibly in line with those recommendations, during the second reading.

MP Kublashvili also said that no changes would be made in respect of process through which constructive vote of no confidence to the government is made – neither in respect of its timeframes, nor in respect of Parliament’s powers in the process.

The Venice Commission said in its preliminary opinion that the timeframe of the procedure was “excessively long” and it also recommended removing the provision, which gives the President the right to dissolve the Parliament during this process.

According to the draft, the non-confidence vote is done by the Parliament through the method known as "constructive vote of no confidence", when two-fifth of lawmakers pick a candidate for new PM’s post and vote the incumbent out and his successor in.

But the President, according to the draft, will have the right to intervene in the process by refusing to appoint new PM approved by the Parliament.

In case of veto, the Parliament will require at least three-fifth of its members’ support, which is 90 MPs, to override the presidential veto; while in other cases, such as vetoed laws (except of constitutional amendments), the Parliament will need only absolute majority (76 votes) and not three-fifth to override the presidential veto.

If the Parliament fails to override presidential veto on prime ministerial nomination, the President will have the right to dissolve the Parliament within three days and call for early elections.

“In the Venice Commission’s view, the power of the President to dissolve parliament at this stage is not compatible with the constructive vote of non-confidence and should be removed,” the Venice Commission said in its preliminary opinion on the draft.

The draft was once again discussed publicly on September 22 with participation of opposition and ruling party politicians, as well as representatives of civil society organization at a conference organized by Open Society-Georgia Foundation (OSGF).

Most of the participants called on the authorities (MP Kublashvili was the only participant of the conference from the ruling party) not to hurry with passing of the draft. The opponents say that the process should be postponed for at least couple of months in order to give more time to public discussions and debates. They argue that series of public discussions during the summer holidays was not enough for better informing the public about the draft, especially against the background of absence of televised debates on the matter.

Echoing the Venice Commission’s opinion, the opponents also said that there was a risk of possible scenario under the new model, when President could come into conflicts with the other institutions.

Other critical remarks voiced at the conference involved issues like the need to increase parliamentary powers; need to include a provision that would require Parliament’s confidence vote in case 1/3 members of the cabinet are changed by PM (provision is envisaged by the current constitution). There have also been calls to ban the President from being a chairman of any political party.

MP Kublashvili said that although some remarks might be taken into consideration during the parliamentary hearings, “no changes will be made” regarding procedures of non-confidence vote and dates of entering new model into force. According to the draft it should go into force in 2013.

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