Parliament passed draft of constitutional amendments with 125 votes to 4 with its second reading on October 1.
The draft still requires Parliament’s approval with third and final reading before it becomes law; but this final stage will be more a technical formality and no substantial changes will be made in the draft.
Justice Minister, Zurab Adeishvili, who presented the draft to lawmakers for second reading on October 1, said that the updated document reflected those changes, which were deemed acceptable a week ago, when he was discussing the draft with lawmakers with the first reading.
These changes mainly include those provisions, which will further reduce powers of next president in favor of the government and PM, including in respect of president’s authorities in foreign policy, in appointment of military top brass; president will no longer have the right of law initiation.
Apart of these changes, the draft also reflects an agreement between lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties to ban next president from holding an official post in a political party. President, however, will still have the right to be a member of a political party.
One of the key issues debated on October 1 involved the process through which constructive vote of no confidence to the government is envisaged by the draft.
Echoing position of Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, lawmakers from the parliamentary minority were saying that the process envisaged by the draft was too complicated and lengthy, which could take at least three months, or possibly even more than 100 days.
Lawmakers from the ruling party, however, argued that the process “should not be easy”, citing the need to secure “stability of the government.”
Upon the Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze’s proposal lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties agreed to hold additional consultations behind the closed doors before the voting in an attempt to find an agreement on the matter.
After the consultations, the Parliamentary Chairman announced that the sides agreed on a compromise option, involving cutting of timeframe of entire procedure of constructive vote of no confidence by 20 days.
The parliamentary minority was also calling for depriving President the right to veto prime ministerial nomination picked by the Parliament in the process of constructive vote of no confidence. The proposal was rejected by the ruling party.
The date of entry into force of new constitution was also a matter of disagreement between the ruling party and the parliamentary minority.
The draft is expected to go into force on December 1, 2013, following the presidential elections in autumn of the same year.
The parliamentary minority wanted the draft to go into force after the 2012 parliamentary elections.
After the consultations it was agreed that although the draft will go into force as envisaged, a new Parliament, elected as a result of 2012 elections, will form a new government under the current constitutional rules.
Among other issues debated during the second reading was a provision related to private property.
According to the draft the state should provide in advance “fair compensation” to an owner if the latter’s property is expropriated for the purpose of public necessity.
The compensation will be exempted from taxes. The parliamentary minority wanted the wording - “no less than market price”, to be included in the provision, but ruling party lawmaker rejected the proposal saying that formulation - “fair composition” was legally more appropriate and provided enough guarantee for owner’s rights.
The rule of election of head of Adjara Autonomous Republic’s government was again raised during the second reading, but the ruling party again declined a proposal to reduce the central government’s role in the process. Under the current draft, the president, with the agreement of the government, will nominate candidate for head of Adjara government and the candidate will require approval from the local legislative body of the Autonomous Republic.
The parliamentary minority also called for amending draft’s provision, which deals with setting up of investigative and other parliamentary ad hoc commissions.
According to the draft one-fifth, instead of current one-fourth, of lawmakers can initiate the process of setting such commission, but final decision should be made through voting, meaning that the initiative requires support of majority.
The parliamentary minority wanted to make initiation of process by one-fifth of lawmakers enough for setting such commissions without further approval of the parliamentary vote. The proposal was rejected by the ruling party, but the latter instead agreed on a wording according to which after the initiation of the process the parliamentary regulations would determine setting up of such commissions. Although the current regulations of the Parliament require voting on the matter, amending of the regulation is possible and procedurally to do it is easier than amending constitutional law.
Like during the first reading, Christian-Democratic Movement, a leading party in the parliamentary minority supported the draft with its second reading.