Georgian Dream lawmakers have decided “not to hurry” with putting two constitutional amendments on parliamentary vote before president-elect’s inauguration on November 17, GD parliamentary majority leader, Davit Saganelidze, said on Friday.
Two drafts in question, both strongly opposed by UNM parliamentary minority group, are – one on location of the Parliament, which, if approved, will pave the way for relocation of Parliament from Kutaisi back to Tbilisi and another one is on change of rule for passing constitutional amendments.
Putting these two amendments on parliamentary vote after the November 17 inauguration means that their approval will require support of 113 MPs instead of current 100, because new constitutional provisions will go into force after the inauguration, increasing threshold for endorsement of any constitutional change from current two-thirds majority to three-fourths majority.
In addition to increasing threshold, the new constitutional provisions envisage that in order for a constitutional change to be confirmed, it requires two votes with three-fourths majority with an interval of at least three months.
One of the GD-proposed amendments involves a proposal to change this rule and to keep two-thirds majority for endorsing a constitutional change. GD has agreed to take into consideration a recommendation by the Venice Commission and to also introduce two separate votes divided by three-month period.
Although Parliament’s ongoing agenda did not include vote on these two drafts this week, it was highly expected that GD would have initiated voting on these issues before November 17 as it will become more difficult for GD to endorse a constitutional amendment after the new constitution goes into force.
GD parliamentary majority lacks constitutional majority even now and this gap will further increase after new constitution goes into force.
In 150-seat Parliament GD has 85 MPs and UNM parliamentary minority – 52.
12 seats are occupied by those majoritarian MPs who were elected in Parliament as UNM members but quit the party following 2012 parliamentary elections; although not guaranteed, they are more likely to vote in favor of GD-proposed constitutional amendments rather than against.
One remaining seat is occupied by MP Koba Davitashvili, who became an independent MP after quitting GD in August; Davitashvili, who was running in the presidential election, announced about quitting politics citing his poor election results (0.6%); he, however, said that he would formally remain a lawmaker. It is not clear how, if at all, Davitashvili will vote in respect of these two constitutional amendments.
Even if GD secures support of 12 ex-UNM MPs, plus support of MP Davitashvili, which is quite possible, it is still falling 2 votes short of required 100 – in the condition if amendments are put on the vote before new constitutional provisions go into force, but it will lack 15 votes if these two drafts are put on vote after the November 17 presidential inauguration.
UNM senior lawmakers said on November 1 that GD decision not to put the amendments on vote now indicates that they fail to attract support of any individual UNM MP. UNM parliamentary minority leader, Davit Bakradze, and several other UNM lawmakers greeted jubilantly their supporters outside the Parliament in Kutaisi on November 1 to inform them that no vote on Parliament’s relocation was going to be held; a group of locals were gathered outside the Parliament on November 1 to protest against GD’s intention to relocate the Parliament building.
But parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, is confident that constitutional amendment on Parliament’s relocation will be approved. He said on November 1: “I state unambiguously and with full responsibility – this issue [Parliament’s relocation] is being resolved both from legal and other point of views and in several months we will be able to work in Parliament’s old building in Tbilisi… Relevant decision will be made when time comes, regardless of what quorum will be required for that.”