Georgian civil society organizations and opposition political parties issued appeals to the Parliament of Georgia, requesting the postponement of parliamentary discussions on the draft constitution.
The Parliament launched week-long committee hearings on the proposed constitutional amendments on June 5, to be followed by its consideration with first and second hearings at the Parliament’s special plenary session in the second half of June.
The Free Democrats and the Republicans, two non-parliamentary opposition parties, issued a joint statement on June 7, calling on the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party to stall the parliamentary discussions, “at least until the Venice Commission releases its final conclusion [on June 17].”
“We, the Republicans and Free Democrats, deem the hasty discussion of constitutional amendments alarming,” said Nino Goguadze, political secretary of the Free Democrats.
“The Georgian Dream has already launched the parliamentary discussions, despite [Parliamentary Chairman] Irakli Kobakhidze’s statements that the Venice Commission’s opinions and remarks would be taken into consideration when adopting the amendments,” Goguadze also said.
“Adoption of the proposed amendments in its current form will lead the country to a deadlock, since it will distance the country from real parliamentary model of governance, fail to ensure multi-party representation in the Parliament, abolish direct presidential election, weaken local self-governance and lower the current standard of human rights protection,” noted Tamar Kordzaia, political secretary of the Republican Party.
The group of five civil society organizations (CSOs), including the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC), as well as former MP Vakhtang Khmaladze in his individual capacity, released a joint statement on the matter on June 6, calling on the Parliament to postpone the parliamentary deliberations until its autumn session.
“The parliamentary discussion is the final stage for comprehensive analysis of amendments, for reflecting all recommendations of the Venice Commission and for achieving a broad consensus over the country’s supreme law. Therefore, it is extremely important not to carry out the discussions on the draft constitutional amendments within unreasonably limited timeframes, especially since there is no legal requirement and political expediency [for it],” the statement reads.
The organizations added that since “the first two hearings make the most important stage, when major [content-related] issues and concrete formulations are agreed (the third hearing is for technical changes only),” it will be “practically impossible” to manage the process in June.
The organizations also pointed out that there is “zero consensus” on certain issues in the draft constitution, including the electoral system, presidential election, etc., and added that the political actors need to find “wide consensus” on the constitution.
The constitutional reform, championed by the ruling Georgian Dream and personally Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze was launched in the frames of the Constitutional Reform Commission in December 2016. The Commission`s work and the subsequent public discussions were marred by opposition claims that the ruling party aimed to craft a system that would solidify its hold on power. Proposed elections of the President through indirect, parliamentary vote and the proposed rule attributing wasted votes to the winner in the proportional parliamentary polls were particularly criticized.