Only days after Georgian politics plunged into pessimism with ugly scenes of intolerance in front of the National Library as President, Government and Parliament played a cat and mouse game which they insist on calling cohabitation, it was time for the roller coaster to turn on the up side. Reconciliation was in the air as the two sides pulled back from brinkmanship politics and focused instead on necessary compromise. The sight of two MPs, one from the government coalition and one from the opposition having a fist fight on live prime tv was not reassuring, but Georgians have got used to theatrics and are no longer much impressed by it.
Of more substance was the news that the Government and the opposition were edging closer to agreeing a constitutional settlement that would address the immediate concerns of the two sides. The Georgian web portal civil.ge reported that the key element of what is being discussed is how to bring forward the constitutional amendments that are due to come into force in October. These amendments made in 2010 reduce the power of the presidency. According to civil.ge Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili was the first to disclose publicly this aspect of on-going talks. Ivanishvili told journalists during his visit to Ankara on February 14 that “there is a good initiative from Saakashvili” to enforce new constitution earlier than it’s scheduled – after the presidential elections in October, 2013. “This is more interesting initiative, which was put forth by the President. Negotiations continue and, if needed, I will also engage in these talks,” Ivanishvili said.
Civil.ge also reported that Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, who is negotiating with UNM on behalf of GD, said on February 15 that talks were on-going around this proposal of UNM. “Although that [new constitutional] model contains certain shortcomings, its enforcement – possibly part of it – would help to resolve many problems,” Usupashvili said. Usupashvili said that GD was pushing for one specific issue – amending constitution in a way to limit President’s power to sack sitting government and appoint new one without Parliament’s approval. “In the course of negotiations readiness has emerged to take broader approach in tackling the problems and we said that it’s an interesting idea. Back in November and December we have offered this proposal [to enforce the new constitution now instead of late 2013] to UNM, but at the time they were not ready for that,” Usupashvili said. “In the existing reality, taking into consideration multiple factors, today not only they expressed readiness, but they themselves proposed this initiative and we are now working on it,” Usupashvili added without specifying what, if any, concessions GD will make in exchange. “Many factors determine people’s more and more rational behavior,” Usupashvili responded when asked in exchange of what UNM decided to agree on significant cut in presidential powers.
Many observers are not convinced that quick constitutional changes that are tailor made for specific personalities or a specific moment in politics should be the way that Georgia should adopt when dealing with its future constitutional framework. There is however recognition that these talks and any possible solution may avert a more serious political crisis over the difficult few months between now and the end of Saakashvili’s term as President in October.
A discussion is currently on-going within the Georgian Dream coalition on the future role of the presidency and how the President is elected. Bidhzina Ivanishvili himself and most of his coalition partners now seem set on pushing for a parliamentary republic with a President elected by Parliament rather than by popular franchise. But at least one party, the Free Democrats led by Irakli Alasania still want a strong Presidency with an elected President. This debate is very legitimate and should take place with the participation of wider Georgian society over a reasonable amount of time before the issue is decided. In the meantime Georgians hope that the roller-coaster will stay on positive for a while before it inevitably drops back to crisis and brinkmanship as it always invariable does.
Source: CEW with civil.ge.