IMPLICATIONS: The Washington Post publication was interpreted in Georgia not only as a warning to a ruling regime that is totally dependent on Western aid but also as evidence of growing discord inside the Citizens’ Union of Georgia (CUG). The fact of member of the CUG openly and sharply criticized his own leader was an unusual occurrence in Georgia. Accordingly, the idea of constitutional reform was presented both as a mean of overcoming the impotence of the executive and as a demonstration of unity inside the presidential party. Shevardnadze believes that the introduction of the Cabinet is possible within the frames of a presidential republic where a powerful President, a powerful Parliament and an empowered Cabinet may successfully collaborate. The leadership of the CUG hopes that formation of the Cabinet will contribute to overcoming the antagonisms within the government that hamper effective administration and will be helpful in the implementation of a ‘team spirit’, meaning the government’s collective responsibility for its decisions and realization of reforms. Contrary to CUG affirmations about Georgia’s move towards so-called ‘French’ political system, the opposition talks about an inevitable shift to the aggravated ‘Russian’ model if the amendments are adopted. Serious concerns are expressed on empowering the President to dissolve the unicameral parliament; the revocation of the government’s ‘unconstitutional’ decrees is considered to be the prerogative of the Constitutional Court and not of the President. The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, an influential NGO, stated that the proposed amendments undermine democracy, counteract the principle of division of powers, and will as a result lad to ‘the President’s irresponsible dictatorship’ which will deprive the highest representative body of real functions. The Chairman of the Constitutional Court, Avtandil Demetrashvili, considers it unreasonable to launch constitutional reform in response to discord inside the ruling party. Such a process, Demetrashvili fears, may cause political instability in the country. On May 22, all 92 members of opposition parliamentary factions signed a common statement. They demand the Parliament to pass an Electoral Code and a new law on local self-governance (local elections are scheduled for the fall) before the debates on constitutional amendments start. The new Code should ensure precise identification and registration of the voters, formation of the electoral commissions on the basis of equality of political organizations participating in the elections, non-interference of authorities in the election procedures, election of the mayors and the heads of local administrations instead of appointing them by President. For the first time since 1995 the opposition got an opportunity to demonstrate its force, since qualified majority (157 out of 235) is needed to pass constitutional amendments in the Parliament, while Shevardnadze and Zhvania control only 143 votes. For its part, the CUG tries to politically benefit from such an unexampled unity of opposition. Presenting the governmental reform almost as an universal panacea, Zhvania and his teammates insist that if the opposition does not support the amendments, it will carry all the responsibility for miserable situation in the country.
CONCLUSIONS: Essentially, discussions about principles of forming of executive are a reflection of a fierce struggle for the power. The first year Shevardnadze’s last five-year presidential term has expired. Preparations for the “post-Shevardnadze” period have already started both inside and outside his party. Potential competitors for the presidency consider the position of Prime minister as a favorable launching pad. It is generally known that the control of governmental bodies is more crucial in Georgian elections (both presidential and parliamentary) than the support of the voters. The opposition, meanwhile, focuses on electoral issues to ensure itself a more or less equal status in the struggle for power after Shevardnadze’s departure.AUTHOR BIO: Ivlian Haindrava is a political analyst and freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Copyright 2001 The Analyst All rights reserved