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Uncertainty Remains over Saakashvili's Annual Address in Parliament
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 21 Feb.'13 / 20:42

President Saakashvili will be able to make his annual state of the nation address in the Parliament tentatively by the end of March, parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili said on Thursday, but he also suggested that Saakashvili’s position on draft of constitutional amendment on presidential powers would determine whether parliamentary majority members listen or not to his speech.

His remarks followed after President Saakashvili appealed the Parliament earlier on February 21 to set the date of his annual speech in the legislative body, which originally was scheduled for February 8; the address, however, was postponed after the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority said it would be ready to listen to the President’s annual speech in the Parliament after resolving row over its proposal to limit presidential powers in respect of appointing new government without Parliament’s approval. In response President Saakashvili decided to make his annual address from the National Library, which is subordinated to the Parliament, but February 8 scuffles outside the library thwarted his plans and Saakashvili made his speech from the presidential palace.

“I hope that Georgian Parliament will comply with country’s basic law [constitution] and both members of the supreme legislative body and our people will be given an opportunity to listen to a report by the President of Georgia,” Saakashvili says in his written appeal to the Parliament on February 21.

He also says that holding of his annual state of the nation address in the Parliament as it was originally scheduled on February 8, would have prevented “many complications”.

Responding to President Saakashvili’s appeal, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili said that by postponing President’s speech, the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority wanted to resolve pressing issues, including on constitutional amendments, and to give the President opportunity of making his speech before parliamentarians and not in “an empty chamber.”

“We have postponed, not canceled, your address in the Parliament with a purpose of avoiding making your address in an actually empty chamber of the Parliament,” Usupashvili said in remarks made during a session of parliamentary bureau, a body uniting senior lawmakers, which sets the legislative body’s weekly agenda.

“You will be able to make your speech from Parliament’s rostrum, tentatively by the end of March, when we complete discussions of other important issues,” he said and added: “Whether your address will be held before the Parliament or just inside Parliament’s walls will depend on the very specific issue… – are you ready or not to return to the Parliament the right, which belongs to the Parliament in every democratic country”.

He was referring to GD’s insistence to amend a constitutional clause, which is in force since early 2004 and which gives the President right to dismiss government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.

Usupashvili also said that President Saakashvili’s “precise answer on this issue is still unknown.”

“The sooner your readiness to address this issue is declared, the sooner other problems will be resolved,” Usupashvili said. “Meantime, I want to explain once again; your answer on this question will determine not whether you will be able to make your address in the Parliament, but whether the Parliament will be able to listen or not to you.”

Usupashvili also told the President that if he had “no positive answer” on GD-proposed constitutional amendment, “then you will be able to arrive in the Parliament” to make the speech, but it will be up to the Parliament to decide whether “to listen or not to the President, who is not returning seized authority” in respect of appointing new govt without Parliament’s approval.

Saakashvili said for number of times that he would not use his constitutional right to dismiss the government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval. His UNM party has said that it would support constitutional amendment, proposed by GD, which falls short of 100 votes in the Parliament required for passing constitutional laws, in exchange of GD’s support to some of its proposals, among them: increasing number of votes required for constitutional amendment from current 100 to 113 and making pro-western foreign policy course constitutionally guaranteed. In the process of negotiations, GD agreed on these proposals of the UNM, but disagreement on scope of amnesty for officials prevented the parties from reaching the final agreement.

After Usupashvili’s remarks, President Saakashvili’s spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said that the parliamentary speaker’s statement amounted to “saying no to a dialogue.”

“President wants to speak and to listen to parliamentarians’ opinion and their rebuttals… How can a dialogue take place when the President is not given a possibility to make his speech and when the Parliament does not even want to talk?” said Manjgaladze on Thursday evening.

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