A 58-member state commission, chaired by parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili and tasked to table amendments to the constitution, held its inaugural session on March 3.
The commission, which was established in late December and involves representatives from broad range of political, civil society and academic circles, is tasked to develop constitutional amendments before September, 2014.
But as parliament speaker and chairman of the commission, Davit Usupashvili, said the new constitution would only go into effect sometime just before next parliamentary elections in 2016 “in the best case” scenario taking into view all the lengthy formal procedures that the draft has to go through.
Five issue-based working groups have been set up within the commission with each of them focusing on its specific area of constitution: checks and balances between branches of government; human rights, courts, prosecutor’s office; some other state institutions (National Security Council, National Bank, Public Defender’s Office, the State Audit Service); territorial-administrative arrangement and local self-governance; general constitutional provisions and rules of making amendments to the constitution.
In his address at the session, Usupashvili stressed that the authorities have no “pre-determined formulas” for new constitution and do not want to use the commission as a mere formality for “tailoring” the constitution on governing coalition.
“This commission has not been set up for the purpose of any pre-determined political goal… We do not know what will come of this. There are no pre-determined formulas and models on which we are fixated; should we opt for two-chamber parliament? – I don’t know, here is the commission and let’s discuss it; how to elect the president? – I don’t know, let’s discuss it,” he said.
Usupashvili said that the constitutional changes should be based on principles such as “more freedoms”; “better balance” between branches of government, including on the local level in the region and “decentralization”; he also said that the constitution should become “more European.”
He also spoke about the importance of launching discussions over territorial structure of the state. The issue is not addressed under the current constitution, which says that the territorial structure of the state should be determined after restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Usupashvili said that a separate working group over this issue was set up within the commission with the purpose to “open” discussion over territorial structure, which, he said, has been closed for past twenty years, in order to at least define whether “to wait twenty more years” or to address it right now.
“It would be wrong to keep rest of Georgia in a waiting mode and not to do what has to be done until Tskhinvali and Sokhumi problems are solved. Local self-governance cannot be waiting for the moment when Georgia’s territorial integrity is restored,” he said and stressed that this issue requires a “thorough consideration” and that he does not know yet what the result of this consideration might be.
Any constitutional amendment requires support of at least 113 lawmakers in 150-seat parliament, meaning that no constitutional change can be endorsed without UNM parliamentary minority group’s support.
“If we agree on any positive change in constitution of course we will support it,” MP Davit Bakradze, leader of UNM minority group in parliament, said after the session of commission on March 3.