Finding out whether Georgian Dream coalition has enough votes or not in the Parliament for endorsing constitutional amendment on presidential powers does not require non-binding, test vote as it is obvious that the parliamentary majority lacks two-third majority, Davit Usupashvili, parliament speaker, said on March 20.
UNM announced after its closed-door meeting late on March 19 in which President Saakashvili also participated, that it’s ready to support GD-proposed constitutional changes on presidential powers, but on the condition if at first the Parliament holds a non-binding, test vote to see whether Georgian Dream has enough votes or not to endorse the bill.
Davit Bakradze, the UNM parliamentary minority leader, said that UNM wanted such test vote in order to put an end to Georgian Dream coalition's claims that the constitutional amendment would be passed no matter of what of UNM's decision because there were some UNM MPs ready to act in their individual capacity instead of following party line on this particular issue.
Bakradze said that test vote will show exactly how many votes GD is lacking and the UNM would give as many votes as required for GD to endorse its constitutional amendment, which offers to strip the President of his right to sack the government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval.
Speaking at a parliament bureau session on March 20, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili said that GD parliamentary majority had 83 seats in the Parliament and a response to UNM’s proposal to hold non-binding vote at first in order to find out whether GD had enough votes or not was about arithmetic.
“Constitutional amendments will be endorsed only if the UNM lawmakers support it. So question about holding a test vote to clarify whether or not the constitutional amendments can be endorsed without the support of the parliamentary minority group, has the following answer – and this is not a political answer, this is the answer based on arithmetic – the amendments cannot be endorsed because 147 [total number of sitting lawmakers] minus 53 [number of UNM lawmakers] is less than 100 [required for constitutional amendment]. Accordingly, this issue is absolutely clear that without the support of the UNM members, the constitutional amendments cannot be endorsed in the Parliament,” Usupashvili said.
Usupashvili also suggested that UNM’s approach that it would give as many votes as GD would require for two-third majority was not right.
“Parliamentary majority is not requesting for [UNM’s] support. The parliamentary majority is offering parliamentary minority to be part of the process in order for the Parliament to regain its powers and authorities. So on the question how many UNM votes are needed, the answer is – all 53. These votes are needed for rectifying the constitution and for the Parliament to regain its dignity and powers and for taking a right decision,” Usupashvili said.
“If the parliamentary minority group wants to clarify situation within its ranks, then it can hold test vote and clarify it with other methods as well if they want it,” Usupashvili said, apparently referring to speculation that UNM’s proposal on non-binding, test vote was aimed primarily for concealing split within its ranks.
“So the situation is very clear and tomorrow I hope the Parliament will take the right decision that is required for the legislative body and for the country,” Usupashvili said.
“I repeat that the parliamentary majority is not requesting for your support; this is an opportunity to be partaker in making a right decision, which will then pave the way for many other right decisions and for creating normal political situation in the country,” he added.
MP Davit Bakradze, the leader of UNM parliamentary minority group, welcomed Usupashvili’s remarks and said that “tone” of his statement was in stark difference from the one which UNM had been hearing in recent days from some other GD lawmakers that this constitutional amendment would anyway be passed regardless of what the UNM’s official party line would be. Bakradze reiterated that the UNM would be insisting on holding a non-binding vote before putting the amendment on binding vote.
Discussions about whether to hold or not test vote will continue on March 21 when the parliamentary session starts debates on the proposed constitutional amendment.
GD lawmakers have already indicated that they would be against the UNM’s proposal.
“I see no need in test vote. This is an attempt by the UNM to show that this is unified team, which has no problems within itself. There are people within UNM who have sense of responsibility before the country and who do not want the country to appear in the crisis,” said GD MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs.
“This is a whim of the parliamentary minority which aims at portraying itself as a decisive factor in the process of adopting constitutional changes,” said GD MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who chairs the largest faction within the parliamentary majority group.
PM Ivanishvili and his allies from GD coalition have indicated for number of times recently that proposed constitutional amendment was now more important for UNM rather than for GD, because how UNM and its individual members would vote on this constitutional amendment would be “a watershed”, which would define UNM’s fate. PM Ivanishvili says that by supporting this constitutional amendment, which, as he says, is about depriving President Saakashvili of “dictatorial” powers, will help UNM to “save its face”.
President Saakashvili said after meeting UNM lawmakers late on March 19 that pressure was exerted on UNM MPs to force them vote in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment. He said that despite of this pressure GD still “lacks six or seven votes”. He also said that unity within the UNM “is now as strong as never before.”