Speaking at his press briefing on June 19, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze criticized President Giorgi Margvelashvili for hampering the constitutional reform process and reiterated his earlier call for a live televised discussion between the two leaders on the draft constitution.
“[Margvelashvili’s refusal] confirms the President’s positions are very weak, he has chosen a very wrong road from the very beginning: this was a road of confrontation with the [Constitution Reform] Commission, the road of confrontation with the Parliament, and now that the reform proved successful, the President entered a deadlock; exactly due to that, regretfully, he rejected our proposal,” Kobakhidze said.
Kobakhidze, however, added that he is still “willing” to engage in a televised discussion with the President.
The Parliamentary Chairman first offered to hold a televised discussion on June 17. “I am ready to discuss the constitutional amendments together with the President and inform the public of the proposed changes,” he said, adding that the President’s had voiced “unjustified, groundless” criticism of the reform process.
“I am sure that through the discussion the public will be convinced that the document is in line with legal principles,” Kobakhidze noted.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s administration responded to the proposal a day later. Giorgi Abashishvili, head of the President’s Administration, said on June 18 that the President welcomed the Parliamentary Chairman’s invitation, but instead, offered the Presidential Palace as a venue for such discussions.
“The President has always supported the broad [political and public] involvement in the constitutional reform process and its high legitimization, therefore, we would like to suggest holding the meeting at the Presidential Palace with wide media coverage and with participation of the President, the Parliamentary Chairman, the Prime Minister, the Public Defender, political parties, civil society organizations, experts, business associations,” Abashishvili noted.
“The fact of the matter is,” Abashishvili went on, “the constitutional reform process has entered a very difficult stage and in order to avoid a zero consensus, which the President is constantly talking about and which the Venice Commission is indicating at, it is essential to take clear, real, effective steps.”
Irakli Kobakhidze commented the President’s response on June 18 as well, saying the President “is not willing to help reach consensus and avoids the format that would have helped the public to have a comprehensive view about the constitutional amendments.”
“The President, who has been the main opponent of the constitutional reform process for the last few months, should not find it difficult to defend his positions before the public in live broadcast,” the Parliamentary Chairman said then.
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.