Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed the constitutional amendments approved with its third and final hearing on September 26 and returned the draft bill to the Parliament together with his objections.
Margvelashvili announced his decision at a news briefing on October 9, describing his objections as a document written “in the spirit of agreement and consensus.”
According to the document, President Margvelashvili proposed to scrap the so called bonus system, which entails the transfer of votes of the parties that fail to cross the threshold entirely to the winner, and to allow the political parties to form electoral blocs for the next parliamentary elections in 2020.
The President also offered the Parliament to remove “preventing crime” and “administering justice” from the list of legitimate aims for restricting the freedom of religion. He also echoed the Venice Commission opinion that the Constitutional Court should be able to rule on the constitutionality of election legislation by a majority vote, instead of the full consensus of the Supreme Court plenum as required in the draft constitution.
The President explained that the four points were in line with Georgian Dream’s initiatives and the commitments undertaken before the Venice Commission, and added that his objections also involve two of those issues, which he and the ruling party representatives failed to agree on.
According to the President, the Parliament should move to the fully proportional electoral system from 2020, as initially scheduled by the Georgian Dream, but later abandoned due to the lack of inner-party consensus within the ruling majority. Here, Margvelashvili said that “based on the agreement reached with the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition,” the opposition was ready to support this issue during the parliamentary vote and subsequently, what “Georgian Dream promised the public” would be “smoothly” reflected in the constitution.
He also commented on his proposal concerning the rule of presidential elections. “I also decided not to be rigid on this issue and [suggested] to postpone it for the future,” Margvelashvili said, adding that direct presidential elections should be maintained and that the matter should be decided only after the country moves to a two-chamber Parliament, that is when the country will restore its territorial integrity as envisaged in the current and draft constitutions.
In the words of Margvelashvili, if the parliamentary majority agrees to his objections, the country will have “a consensual document.” “We will adopt the constitution, which will have the support of the parliamentary and the non-parliamentary opposition, and we will demonstrate the European political culture, which the Venice Commission has been urging us to do,” he added.
Mamuka Mdinaradze, chairman of the Georgian Dream faction, said on October 9 that the ruling party would override the presidential veto. “With that, the President refused to use his final chance to make a positive contribution to the constitutional reform process, which has been recognized as a success by the Georgian society and the Venice Commission,” he said.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s decision to veto the constitutional amendments followed his consultations with representatives of the ruling and opposition parties, as well as the release of the final opinion by the Venice Commission.