Lawmakers will start discussing a constitutional amendment on presidential powers with its first hearing at a parliamentary session on March 21, it was announced after by the Parliament’s bureau meeting on Tuesday.
Debates on the Georgian Dream-proposed constitutional change may go into second day of discussions on March 22 after which the draft will be put on vote, according to some GD lawmakers.
UNM parliamentary minority group has yet to announce its position whether it will support or not the proposed constitutional amendment, which offers to limit presidential power to sack sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.
“UNM and each member of the parliamentary minority group will act unanimously in line with decision that will be taken by the party,” MP Davit Bakradze, the leader of UNM parliamentary minority group said on March 18.
The proposed constitutional amendment was discussed and approved by the parliamentary committee for legal affairs on March 18. UNM lawmakers did not participate in the hearing.
This constitutional amendment is one of the key issues pushed by PM Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority since December.
GD although holds majority in the Parliament, it falls short of 100 seats required for passing constitutional amendments.
President Saakashvili and his UNM party downplay this constitutional amendment saying that it’s not a major issue that should be the focus of political process; Saakashvili said for multiple times that he has no intention whatsoever to make use of this constitutional right and to sack the sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.
In February talks between GD and UNM were close to reaching an agreement with UNM accepting GD’s constitutional amendments and GD agreeing on UNM’s several proposal, including making pro-western foreign policy course constitutionally guaranteed and increasing threshold for passing any new constitutional amendment in the future from current two-third (100 MPs) to three-fourth (113 MPs) of majority. But no agreement was made possible because of differences on the scope of possible amnesty for officials.
According to the draft, in case of cabinet’s resignation or if it is sacked by the President the latter will have no right to appoint new government without Parliament’s approval; the sitting government will have to continue performing its duties before the new cabinet is confirmed.
Initial draft of the amendment envisaged removing a clause from the constitution, which bans the President to dissolve the Parliament within six months before the presidential elections. Citing criticism of some civil society groups over this proposal, the GD coalition decided to keep this limitation in the constitution. The final draft now specifies that the President will have no right to dissolve the Parliament in a period from May 1 till inauguration of newly elected president. Presidential elections are set for October, 2013; it is up to President Saakashvili to set an exact date of election.