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GD, UNM Signal Potential for Progress in Talks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Feb.'13 / 14:03

PM Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream and President Saakashvili UNM have both signaled potential for finding a common ground in ongoing talks over power-sharing arrangement.

The two major political forces are now negotiating on the possibility to enforce new constitutional provisions, or at least part of them, earlier than scheduled in late 2013, according to negotiators from the both parties.

The new constitution, which was passed by the previous Parliament in 2010, significantly boosts PM’s powers at the expanse of those of the president.

The initiative to enforce the new constitution earlier than scheduled came from UNM and was welcomed by the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition. PM Ivanishvili said on February 14 that it was “a good initiative from Saakashvili.”

Davit Bakradze, leader of the UNM parliamentary minority group who is involved in talks with Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili, said that this proposal to enforce “large part” of the new constitution now would help defuse political tensions and pave the way for resolving other issues, including stopping “wave of arrests” of officials from the previous government.

“I think it’s an extremely constructive proposal,” Bakradze said on February 15. “We believe that an agreement over this issue will significantly help to pave the way for resolving other issues important for calming down the country and the society, including for stopping the wave of arrests and pressure.”

“There has been a positive reaction from the parliamentary majority and we are now working on specific issues and articles [of the new constitution] to define which provisions can be enforced now,” Bakradze added.
 
One of the constitutional provisions that is expected to go into effect after the October 2013 presidential elections is increasing bar for passing constitutional amendments from current two-third majority to three-fourth of MPs’ votes.

After the Georgian Dream coalition initiated constitutional amendments to limit president’s powers in respect of sacking sitting government and appointing new one without Parliament’s approval, UNM demanded increasing threshold for passing any future constitutional amendment from current 100 to 113 votes.

UNM has also pushed for introducing a constitutional clause reiterating Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy course in exchange for its support to GD-initiated constitutional amendment on presidential powers. GD falls short of 100 votes in the Parliament to pass changes in the constitution.

Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, who is negotiating with UNM on behalf of GD, said on February 15 that talks were ongoing around the UNM’s proposal to enforce the new constitution earlier than scheduled.

“Although that [new constitutional] model contains certain shortcomings, its enforcement – possibly part of it – would help to resolve many problems,” Usupashvili said.

Usupashvili said that GD was pushing for one specific issue – amending constitution in a way to limit President’s power to sack sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.

“In the course of negotiations readiness has emerged to take broader approach in tackling the problems and we said that it’s an interesting idea. Back in November and December we have offered this proposal [to enforce the new constitution now instead of late 2013] to UNM, but at the time they were not ready for that,” Usupashvili said.

“In the existing reality, taking into consideration multiple factors, today not only they expressed readiness, but they themselves proposed this initiative and we are now working on it,” Usupashvili said.

“Many factors determine people’s more and more rational behavior,” Usupashvili responded when asked in exchange of what UNM decided to agree on significant cut in presidential powers.

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