22 Sep 2017 22:44

Venice Commission tentatively approves draft of new Georgian constitution, opposition preparing protests

TBILISI. Sept 22 (Interfax) - The Venice Commission has positively assessed a draft of a new Georgian constitution in its interim conclusion, Georgian parliamentary speaker Irakly Kobakhidze said at a news briefing on Friday.

"The Venice Commission in its interim conclusion on our draft constitution leaves in effect only several non-crucial recommendations. In particular, it does not share our position on banning regional political parties," Kobakhidze said.

As concerns the amendment of the presidential election procedure, which is a matter of principle for the opposition, as it abolishes the popular vote and introduces a system in which a president would be elected by designated electors, the Venice Commission supports the relevant constitutional article passed by the parliament in two readings, Kobakhidze said.

The Venice Commission also regretted in its interim conclusion that the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia would again be held based on the mixed proportional-majority system and that the transition to a proportional system would take place only in 2024, he said.

Meanwhile, the Georgian opposition sees this very constitutional provision as unacceptable and therefore refuses to support the new constitution.

"The Council of Opposition Leaders held its first meeting today to adopt a statement on the illegitimacy of the constitutional amendments in question. If the authorities controlled by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili adopt their draft constitution, the people will have the right to defend the constitutional system, including through mass protests," leader of the opposition Labor Party Shalva Natelashvili told journalists on Friday.

Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the opposition party Democratic Movement and a former parliamentary speaker, told journalists: "The constitution that the incumbent authorities are adopting today would be a constitution of one party. If the next parliamentary elections are held based on the proportional-majority system, I am sure that the entire opposition spectrum would declare them invalid."