Constitution of Georgia. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
On May 1, the Parliament of Georgia initiated the constitution amendments, which will abolish direct presidential election and move the country’s legislature to fully proportional representation.
Lawmakers will vote for setting up of a nine-member group on May 3, which will lead one-month long public discussion on the proposed draft of constitutional amendments – a formal procedure required for any constitutional amendment before being voted by the lawmakers.
According to Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the Parliament and the Constitutional Reform Commission, the draft was sent for expertise to Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal matters, which will issue its preliminary conclusion before June, before parliamentary discussions, and the final conclusion on June 15.
President of Georgia
According to the draft, direct election of the president will be abolished, transferring it to the college of electors composed of 300 MPs, local and regional government representatives.
The college of electors will consist of 150 members of parliament and all members of the Supreme Councils of Adjara and Abkhazia (in-exile). Electors from municipality councils will be nominated by political parties in accordance with quotas assigned “on the basis of the principle of proportional geographic representation and the results of municipal election.”
No less than 30 electors will be able to nominate a presidential candidate. A candidate, who garners most votes, but no less than the majority of total number of delegates, will be declared a winner in the first round of elections. If the first round fails to reveal the winner, the second round will be held between two candidates with the best results achieved in the first round. A candidate, who garners most votes in the second round, will be declared a winner.
The President will be elected without a prior debate on the parliament floor and will serve for a term of five years. The same person may serve as a president for two terms only.
The eligibility age for the President of Georgia increases from 35 to 40. The change applies to residence requirements as well; a potential candidate has to have lived in Georgia for at least 15 years. He/she, however, is no longer required to have lived in Georgia for the last three years before the election.
President will remain the head of state; the commander-in-chief; and representative in foreign relations; but will no longer “ensure the functioning of state bodies within the scope of his/her powers granted by the Constitution.” President loses the right to “to request particular matters to be discussed at the Government session and participate in the discussion.”
The National Security Council, which “organizes the military development and defense of the country” and is led by the president under the current constitution, will no longer exist. Instead, the draft constitution establishes the National Defense Council, which will function only during martial law to coordinate the work of the constitutional bodies, and will consist of the President, the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Chairman and the Head of the Armed Forces of Georgia.
If adopted, Georgia will move to fully proportional, instead of current mixed electoral system, where voters elect 73 MPs in majoritarian, single-seat constituencies, while the remaining 77 seats are distributed proportionally in the closed party-list contest, where the party must clear a 5% threshold.
The new constitution will ban the establishment of party blocs ahead of elections while leaving the 5% threshold intact. The votes of the parties that fail to cross the threshold will be entirely transferred to the winner.
The draft constitution increases the candidacy age from current twenty-one to twenty-five years and sets a ten year long residence requirement in Georgia.
A political party, which has its member in the parliament or which obtains the signatures of 25000 voters, is eligible to participate in parliamentary elections.
According to the draft, MPs nominated by one political party can only form one parliamentary faction.
According to the draft constitution, article 78 in the transitional provisions stipulates that “the constitutional bodies shall take all available measures within their competence to ensure Georgia’s full integration into the European Union and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
The draft constitution no longer contains the clause setting the parliamentary location in Kutaisi.
According to the draft constitution, “everyone has a right to internet access and its free use.”
The draft constitution introduces the definition of marriage as “the union of man and women.”
Under the new constitution, the prosecutor’s office will no longer function under the Ministry of Justice and will serve as an independent body accountable to the parliament. The chief prosecutor, elected by the parliament for a term of six years, will lead the office.
The draft constitution stipulates that the same person may serve as a public defender for one term only.
According to the draft constitution, the state may impose restrictions on political activities of foreign citizens and individuals without citizenship.
(Based on the April 22 draft of the constitution)