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“No Direct Elections Will Be Held for 2018 Presidential Elections”

08.02.2017

 
Natia Gogolashvili

“The President of Georgia shall be the Head of State of Georgia. He/she shall ensure the unity and integrity of the country and the activity of the state bodies in accordance with the Constitution. The President is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Georgia. The President of Georgia shall be the higher representative of Georgia in foreign relations,” it is how the Constitution of Georgia clarifies the Institute of President of Georgia and regulates his/her duties and responsibilities. Currently, the Constitutional Commission is discussing the rule of election of the President and consequently defines his/her duties and responsibilities. 

In accordance to the Constitution of Georgia, the President of Georgia shall be elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot for a term of five years. The parliamentary majority believes the rule of the president’s elections shall be coherent with the government system of the country and the head of the state shall be elected by the legislative body. The parliamentary minority and part of NGOs agree that the president shall be elected based on universal and direct suffrage. 
The leader of the parliamentary majority, member of the faction Georgian Dream Archil Talakvadze thinks it is important that the commission discussed the current model of the president’s election and change the system. “We already have parliamentary governance system in the country and naturally it should be reflected in the constitutional amendments and reforms to make this model stronger. Consequently, the amendments, which we discuss now, are naturally coherent with the model. The election rule and model of the president’s institute shall be compliant with his/her functions, authority and political role. If we plan to establish the parliamentary governance, that is supported by the majority of the commission members as well as by the actors outside the commission too, it is natural that we will have to discuss the current system within framework of the Commission’s activities,” Archil Talakvadze said.

Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues Eka Beselia from the Georgian Dream believes the rule of the president’s election shall be coherent with the parliamentary model of governance. “If we discuss pure parliamentary model and separate the authorities, we will have clearer picture how the president shall be elected.”

Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament from the faction European Georgia – For Better Future Sergi Kapanadze said the president’s institute shall be directly elected. “Today we have informal governance in the country and one person controls everything; consequently, annulment of any state institution and reduction the functions of any state institution supports the interests only of that one person. Thus, our position is to keep the direct rule of election of the president. The President’s institute shall be strong as one of the institutes which balance current informal governor.”

Another Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament from the faction Georgian Patriots Irma Inashvili shares the position of Sergi Kapanadze. “We want that people elected the president instead the parliament. We often have many questions about the legitimacy of the parliament. Thus, for the purpose of democratic development, I think it is a step back to allow the parliament to elect the president. Universal election is progressive step on the way to democratic development,” Irma Inashvili said.

Executive director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy Mikheil Benidze thinks the indirect election of the president will originate a risk that the absolute power of governance will be accumulated in the hand of one political party. “Indirect election of the president by the Parliament, which we have now, that is one-chamber parliament and with the territorial arrangement that we have now, creates risks that governance power will be accumulated in the hands of one political party. Indirectly elected president may be significantly dependent on the majority, because the parliament will have power to declare impeachment on the president,” Mikheil Benidze said.

Constitutionalist Vakhushti Menabde thinks considering the fact that we have one-chamber parliament and unitary territorial arrangement of the country, we should be very critical about the indirect election of the president. 

Constitutionalist Kote Chokolraia also supports direct election of the president. “We should analyze the role of the president in the segregation of the governance system and why we need the direct election of the president. There is an opinion that direct election of the president with such a limited authorities though with such high legitimacy may create more political crisis but if it does not happen, we will receive the situation, when one political party will decide who will be in the parliamentary majority and in the executive government, who will be the president and they all together will decide who will be in the judiciary authority. I think, the president shall stay distant from the executive authority. It is important that the country had legitimately elected president, who will be able to start a dialogue between the political powers in the moment of crisis,” Kote Chokoraia said.

“Direct election of the president is correct and acceptable form. If somebody wants to change it, it should be very well argumented desire and it should not be done for the 2018 presidential elections. They really created an impression that they want to amend the Constitution in accordance to concrete needs,” head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Ana Natsvlishvili said.

Constitutionalist Kote Chokoraia told humanrights.ge that the constitutional commission was created to change the direct election of the president. He named several factors that convinced him in it. “The comments of the governmental officials and allies of the government. In addition to that, we observed several-years cycle of the controversy with the President, which was demonstrated in the form of institutional controversy. At the same time, we should pay attention to the structure of the constitutional commission. I mean, the members of the commission. First time in the Georgian history, the ruling party has the most members in the constitutional commission; there are 24 members of the Georgian Dream in the Commission. At the same time there are experts, who are associated with the ruling party.”

As for the terms, Kote Chokoraia said the Constitution can be amended before the 2018 presidential elections. The Commission was set up in the end of December 2016 and will work for 4 months. By the end of April 2017, the commission shall finish working. “As soon as the commission finishes its work, the relevant procedure, as regulated by the Constitution of Georgia, shall commence to amend the Constitution. Before that, universal public discussion is necessary (organization commission shall be created in the parliament, which will ensure public hearings of the amendments) that will be presumably done in May. Afterwards, the Parliament will discuss the bill. Then, they will need three hearings to adopt the law, which will be done in the following way: first and second hearings will be done in one session and three months later, the law will be adopted through third hearing at the second session. That means, they will manage to hold two sessions in June and three months later, during the autumn sessions, they will approve the law through third hearing. Afterwards, the bill will be sent to the President. The latter will discuss it and theoretically he will be able to veto it. If it happens the Parliament will override the veto and the law will go in force. All these procedures will most probably finish in November of 2017. It means, the president will not directly elected during 2018 Presidential Elections. Even if the process is dragged out, everything will be over by April 2018 and by the autumn of 2017, the time for the presidential elections, the Constitution will be amended,” the constitutionalist Kote Chokoraia said.

It is noteworthy that that President’s administration does not participate in the constitutional commission. 

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