Georgian parliamentary speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned from his post on June 21 following overnight clashes between police and demonstrators outside of the parliament in Tbilisi.
A statement on Kobakhidze's resignation was read out to journalists in Tbilisi on June 21 by Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, the secretary-general of the ruling Georgian Dream party, after a meeting of the party leadership.
Although Kobakhidze was standing in the briefing room while the statement was being read out to journalists, he left the room without making any comment.
Georgian opposition leaders earlier on June 21 vowed to return to the streets of Tbilisi on the evening of June 21 to call for the resignations of I. Kobakhidze and Georgia's interior minister.
Demonstrators also are demanding early parliamentary elections in response to the political crisis that has erupted following the overnight violence.
Grigol Vashadze, chairman of the United National Movement party, called for demonstrators to gather for a rally beginning at 7 p.m. local time near the parliament building where the clashes occurred overnight.
Irakli Kobakhidze was elected as the Speaker of the Parliament on November 18, 2016.
MP Archil Talakvadze is expected to replace I. Kobakhidze.
The Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze held the farewell meeting with the Chinese Ambassador, H.E. Ji Yanchi.
The parties discussed bilateral relations and development of cooperation. As noted, economic and people-to-people bonds have been significantly enhanced recently between Georgia and China.
The Speaker thanked the Ambassador for contributing in enhancement of bilateral relations.
The Speaker, H.E. Irakli Kobakhidze met with the Venice Commission Delegation serving the visit to Georgia.
The parties discussed the bill on criterion and procedures of selection of the judges to the Supreme Court.
The Speaker introduced the procedure and novelties envisaged under the bill initiated by the ruling party. According to the Venice Commission members, the authority and the Venice Commission share the common goal – to improve judicial independence and liberation of the Court from the political influence.
The Venice Commission members expressed commitment for cooperation.
The Venice Commission serves the 2-day visit to Georgia to hold the meetings with the representatives of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities, Public Defender and NGOs.
Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller outlined the decisions taken by Allied leaders last week in a keynote speech to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tbilisi on Monday (29 May 2017). She highlighted that the Alliance is stepping up in the fight against terrorism and making progress on fairer burden-sharing across NATO.
The Deputy Secretary General welcomed that NATO is now a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS – a strong symbol of the Alliance’s commitment to the fight against terrorism. NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft will also support the Coalition with airspace management, and a new terrorism intelligence cell at NATO headquarters will improve the sharing of information among Allies. Ms. Gottemoeller stressed that NATO leaders also agreed to do more to ensure fairer burden sharing across the Alliance, with national plans setting out how Allies intend to meet their defence commitments. She highlighted that Montenegro will soon become the 29th member of the Alliance – a clear sign that the door to NATO membership remains open.
The Deputy Secretary General also thanked Georgia for its contributions to NATO, including in Afghanistan. She noted that NATO continues to support Georgia, helping to boost its defence capabilities and to prepare the country for NATO membership. Ms. Gottemoeller added that NPA members play an important role in representing constituents and holding political leaders to account for the decisions they take.
During her visit to Georgia, Ms. Gottemoeller will meet with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, Defence Minister Levan Izoria and the Chairman of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze.
The Speaker to participate in the Summit of Speakers of the Central and Eastern European ParliamentsWednesday, 17 May 2017 15:40
The Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze will visit Warsaw to participate in Summit of Speakers of the Central and Eastern European Parliaments on May 17-20 and to hold the high rank meetings with: the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, Marshal of the Polish Sejm, Marek Kuchciński, Marshal of Polish Senate, Stanisław Karczewski, Speaker of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy, Speaker of Parliament of Montenegro, Ivan Brajović, Speaker of Chamber of Deputies of Romania, Liviu Dragnea, Speaker of Senate of Romania, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, László Kövér and the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia, Djordje Milicevic.
The Speaker will also meet Georgian Diaspora. Within the Summit, the Speaker will participate in the Round Table organized by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation – “Georgia after NATO Warsaw Summit”.
The delegates at the Summit will discuss role of National Parliaments in international policy, regional security, North-South Axis infrastructure and values of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze attended the play in Rustaveli Theatre “12 Angry Men” performed by 18 convicts. The play was also attended by the Catholic-Patriarch, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, MPs, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, executive authorities and diplomatic corps.
Today, the Speaker and MPs visited the exhibition of works made by convicts exposed in Rustaveli Theatre Lobby.
Irakli Kobakhidze: if we speak about subjective interests, holding of direct Presidential elections next year serve for our interestsFriday, 12 May 2017 12:55
“If we speak about subjective interests, holding of direct Presidential elections next year serve for our interests”, - the Speaker responded to journalists. He noted that this issue is ultimately to be solved by the Parliament as it is the organization making the respective political decisions.
“Ultimately, it is up to the Parliament – it is the organization making the respective political decisions including on terms. As to our attitude – in subjective terms, the most beneficial for us is the direct Presidential elections to be held next year. Everyone knows who will be the winner of the next Presidential elections – it would be our victory and in such case, we will additionally enhance our political interests. if we speak about subjective interests, holding of direct Presidential elections next year serve for our interests. All the other is up to the Parliament”.
“Rugby indeed is our game, Georgians’ game”, - the Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze stated in Kutaisi Parliament where the Rugby World Cup was delivered on the occasion of the World Rugby Championship to be held in Georgia.
“I am glad that the Parliament hosts the World Cup. This event will play the greatest role in Rugby development in Georgia. I would like to thank every person and every organization contributing in development of Rugby in Georgia. “Rugby is our game” – it is not the slogan only. Rugby indeed is our game, Georgians’ game”, - he stated.
According to MP, veteran Rugby player and the former captain of Georgian National Team, Irakli Abuseridze, development of Rugby in Georgia started in 90s. “It is the greatest responsibility for Georgia. I am glad that we host the World Rugby Championship. It is the recognition at the world level. We have obtained approval to hold the Championship in Georgia as a result of two victories at World Cup 2015 and I hope that our country and our Team will achieve the goal we outlined”.
According to the veteran Rugby player, Lekso Gugava, witnessing the prestigious Rugby award is a unique opportunity. “According to the rule, when the country hosts the World Cup, the World Cup serves the pre-visit to the hosting country to start travel and see the representative areas of the country. One of the Cup stops is the Parliament. Today, the Cup was delivered to the Speaker of the Parliament, the Parliament also hosts the veteran Rugby players and everyone can take a photo and see the Cup. It is a unique opportunity”.
Within May 31-June 18, Georgia will for the first time host the World Rugby Championship. The World Rugby Cup arrived on April 17. It travels to the regions of Georgia and within the action, the Rugby Union and veteran players delivered the Cup to the Parliament of Georgia.
“This is the administration system ensuring strong Parliament, effective Government, independent Court, impartial and neutral President and consolidated party system – it is the common aspiration of the changes scheduled to the Constitution”, - the Speaker stated at the press-conference held in Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel. The Head of the State Constitutional Commission spoke about Constitutional changes and thanked media for high interest.
The Speaker underlined that often the society was mised. Mr. Kobakhidze overviewed revision process and emphasized achievements. Speaking about the Constitutional Commission, he noted that the format the President offered envisaged three co-Chairs and the Parliament offered different format envisaging establishment of the Constitution under the Parliamentary aegis. “There was the conceptual difference between these formats. The society was provided with the superficial information about the formats. The comparisons made were simple about preferences of having one or three co-Chairs. In fact, the difference between the formats was conceptual. One format envisaged the Presidential and another Parliamentary format. As to the current Constitution and legislation, they envisage that the only correct format was Parliamentary deriving that the only agency capable to initiate the Constitutional draft is the Parliament of Georgia. Hence, the Parliamentary format had no alternative and we established the State Constitutional Commission on this basis, allowing us gaining respective outcomes”.
Activity of SCC was based on wide involvement, he stated. The Commission was composed of 73 members, including MPs, Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary parties, as well as the representatives of all Constitutional agencies, NGOs and experts. “All respective subjects were allowed participating in the process, which was clearly formulated and defined, being one of the main priorities of newly established Commission. We have had clearly defined objective of each meeting which was unlike to the preceding Commissions and it had the direct impact on SCC activity, namely each member knew the purpose of attending the meeting. It conditioned high attendance ensuring active discussions. The Commission was the most inclusive and based on wide involvement, which is for the first time during the last 25 years. It is the greatest achievement. Inclusiveness of the process and expediency of the format are recognized by our partners”.
The Speaker spoke about the Commission objectives and stated that the Parliament under the respective Resolution, outlined the objective to envisage full compliance of the Constitution with the principles of the Constitutional law and provision of solid Constitutional foundation for long-term democratic development. He underlined that the current Constitution provides technical gaps.
“The third important issue to be outlined is malfunctioning of the Constitution in legal technical terms. The structure and norms were improper containing gaps, including the technical. The structure was not properly formulated and even the Articles could not be properly titled, when this document shall be the guideline for any lawyer of how to formulate the legal document in technical terms. These three tasks were outlined for the Commission and we believe that they were fully accomplished”.
According to the new edition, all Articles are revised. The Speaker underlined that most of the changes are based on the offers by the experts, NGOs and various Constitutional agencies. “We have worked hard. If you compare the current Constitution with the offered edition, all the Articles are revised. The changes concern almost all the paragraphs and it is noteworthy that 80-85% of the changes are based on the proposals of experts, NGOs and various Constitutional agencies. All these facts underline inclusiveness of the process”.
The process was rationally planned enabling saving of tax-payers’ sums. “360 000 GEL was consumed for activity of the previous Commission with zero outcome. The new Commission activity took 40 000 GEL for formulation of the new edition. It indicates to the fact that the process was rationally planned and we saved sums of our tax-payers and had the rational approach”.
He thanked NGOs and experts for their contribution and overviewed the new edition. Significant changes are to be adopted to the Chapter I. “I would like to emphasize the principles previously lost in the Preamble and now each of the principles are provided in each Articles. These are the principles of democracy, legal state and social state, as well as economic freedom. The guarantees of each principle are clear. For instance, when we deal with democracy principle, we remember incorrect practice regarding the terms of the Constitutional agencies. Twice the Constitutional changes extended the term for the Parliament and the President for one year, which is in a gross contradiction with the legal principles. Now, we provide the norm prohibiting extension. As to the social state, I would like to emphasize this issue. It was incorrectly interpreted when this principle has a very clear normative and conceptual meaning. We also were accused for formation of the socialist state which has nothing to do with the social state as social state in ideological terms is absolutely neutral. Moreover, Germany has the social state principle in modern form initiated by the right-wing politicians instead of the left-wing. It indicates to absence of anything in common between the particular ideology and social state principle. Naturally, it was important to clearly prescribe social responsibility of the state towards citizens and it will be reflected on respective practice”.
The common consensus was achieved regarding the Chapter I and Chapter II also provides significant changes. “New fundamental rights shall be added to the Constitution that were not clearly guaranteed or were not guaranteed at all, for instance, fundamental right of physical integrity. In terms of gender equality, we have a normative record and new fundamental right, protecting rights and interests of disabled. We also have the right on access to internet. We have special guarantees for independence of Public Broadcaster, the right for so-called good governance and fair administration. This new right is also provided in the Constitution along with another important annex – freedom of entrepreneurship. These are the new rights clearly guaranteed in the new edition and in the number of cases we have the standard of protection of increased fundamental rights, for instance equality right, privacy and communication integrity rights, access to public information, healthcare, environmental protection etc. We have significant improvements in the Chapter II publicly discussed in the Commission. The discussion served the basis for revision of the Chapter II. As to voting results, 45 votes were for against 4”.
As to the freedom of labor, the Commission maintained the standard, which entailed negative position of some members. As to the Article on Public Defender, consultations with PD may continue and the Article may be revised again on the basis of consensus.
Significant additions are provided in the part on Parliament. “We enhanced the rights of the opposition in various terms. I would like to emphasize the right on set up of the fact finding commission. Today, it is Majority to decide set up of the commission but the changes ensure delegation of this right to the Minority. Namely, 1/3 of MPs shall be entitled to set up the fact finding commission with the decision. We also have important change regarding the Factions – as you know, we currently have incorrect practice in the Parliament. Four subjects are in fact represented and 11 Factions are established, which is in contradiction with the European traditions. We want to regulate this issue on the Constitutional level and as many Factions shall be established in the new Parliament as many subjects overcome the threshold. We achieved consensus on this issue as well – 43 for, 1 against”.
The fundamental change is provided in the part on Parliamentary elections – the mixed system shall be replaced with the proportional system. The institutionalized party system can never be established in the country unless annulment of blocs. New edition maintain threshold on 5%. As to undistributed mandates for the winner party, due quality of stability shall be ensured along with pluralism. “We move from the mixed to the proportional system with its elements. The first element is annulment of blocs which have nothing in common with stability interest we often speak about. As to the electoral blocs, electoral blocs have been creating the crucial impediment for development of party system in Georgia for years and we shall never establish the party system in Georgia if maintain the blocs on legislative level. Currently, there are 20 qualified subjects. Any person can name the political parties as the number never exceeds 6 or 7.
Meantime, under the law, 20 parties are called the qualified parties. It entails absolute confusion in the party system. Correspondingly, institutionalized party system cannot be established unless annulment of blocs. Thus, annulment of blocs is crucial upon revision of the Constitution. The threshold shall be remained on 5%. First of all, speaking about these two elements, concerning 5% threshold for the parties – it is widely tested practice in Europe. There are more than 10 countries in EU with 5% threshold for the parties. Hence, naturally we cannot have legal or any other remarks in this regards. We had the initial consultations with Venice Commission experts. Again, as to 5% threshold, it is directly compatible with European experience. We have the third element which cannot be found in the greatest part of European practice, though two European countries apply it. It is so-called bonus, or undistributed mandates for the winner party, which is important to ensure pluralism and due quality of stability. It was the task and we add the bonus element to the electoral system. It means the minimal addition to ensure certain quality of stability in Parliamentary life, to ensure the Majority to be stable in party or multi-party format. This system with its bonus and format guarantees non-establishment of single-party Majority.
Simply speaking, the winner party can obtain 40% of votes or lose more than 10% of votes, which means that this party cannot have more than 75 mandates in the Parliament. This system prevents establishment of single-party Majority unlike Italian or Greek models, where the Constitution directly guarantees single-party Majority. I believe, this system is optimal compared to the current edition. Why we replace the existing system – the current system in legal terms is in compliance with the principles. There are the countries applying proportional or majoritarian systems. Current mixed system cannot be estimated as illegitimate especially the EU has the particular system with the similar format. There are other democratic countries as well, applying mixed system. So, why we decided to replace it with the proportional system – we have a very negative experience in our latest history. It is important to transit to the proportional system, the system preventing establishment of single-party Majority”.
Significant changes are adopted to the part on the President. “The status is defined with 3 main records in the current Constitution. It is the Head of State, Supreme Commander and representative in foreign relations. We shall prevent misinterpretation of this status, which was a frequent practice during the last 3 years. As to the Head of State – all the monarchs and Presidents are called the Head of State in any country. On the one hand it can mean that the President is the ruler of the country. The society shall not be misled with this record. Same is with the Supreme Commander. It does not mean that the armed forces are subordinated to the President and in the third case – representative in foreign relations – we have the similar situation, there is no country or the Constitution where the President or monarch is not mentioned as the representative or supreme representative in foreign relations, though it does not mean that the President or monarch enjoy the priority competences in foreign competences. It is important to find out what are the authorities defined under the respective competence. It means that all three signs remain in force of status. The President is the Head of State, Supreme Commander and the representative in foreign relations in new edition – we have the status of the President unchanged”.
As to the Presidential authorities, there are some specifications in this term as well. “Often, the society was misled about the authorities. Some journalists made the statements that the competences granted under the current Constitution disappear in the new edition. In fact, we have changes in the part 2: annulment of the National Security Council replacing it with the Defense Council; and nomination of the Judges of the Supreme Court. No essential revision of the competences of the President is provided in any of these cases. As to these two changes, we had clear recommendations by the Venice Commission. Regarding the Supreme Court, Venice Commission recommended that President shall not nominate them, better have the Judges nominated by the High Council of Justice and the change is based on this recommendation and it is more correct in institutional terms. As to the National Security Council, we had incorrect legal construction. The NSC used to advise the President on the issues covered under the Governmental competences – it means one institution is advised on the issues under competences of another institution. It is a legal nuance confirmed by the Venice Commission experts since 2010 but NSC remained in the form as provided in the administration system. In both cases, deriving from legal terms, the changes are introduced to the Constitution”.
As to other competences, the Presidential competences cannot be increased or restricted as the respective principal change has already been adopted in 2010 defining the Government as the sole agency to ensure domestic and foreign policy. “Simply speaking, the President in percentage had 100% authority before 2010 changes and this 100% authority was reduced to 0.3%. It was the drastic change implemented in 2010 and by the way by the opponents now speaking about restriction of competences of the President in negative context. Correspondingly, we do not adopt any principal changes regarding Presidential competences and remain his/her authority unchanged”.
The fundamental change is developed regarding the Presidential elections – direct election replaced with indirect election. “The society was misled regarding this issue as well. There are speculations and manipulations with this change especially that speculations with this issue are easy – you simply ask the society whether it prefers to elect the President or have the President elected by others without ever elucidating details. But it is important to ensure maximal adjustment of the Presidential election to the governance system we establish – it is the Parliamentary system requiring the President to be elected in indirect manner, evidenced with European experience. There are the countries with the direct Presidential election in Parliamentary system. But there are the countries with indirect Presidential election by the Parliament or in collective manner, which never encounter any problems when on the contrary, the countries with direct election in Parliamentary Republics encountered the system problems, for instance overlap of the competences between the Constitutional Republics or election of odious or non-Pro-Western President or the President with neo-Nazism inclination etc. It impedes to development of party system. Once again – countries with indirect election system never encounter system problems and vice versa – countries with direct election system, including developed European and democratic Parliamentary Republics encounter the problems.
Besides, the authorities in this system do not allow defining the electoral campaign upon direct elections when the President cannot have the electoral program, cannot give promises or speak about these issues with the electors. It does not allow formation of healthy electoral campaign and the third issue – in which case the over impartial President is elected. The task is to elect the impartial neutral arbiter. Let’s imagine two cases – one when the President is elected in simpler manner and when the party has own candidate, involved in party structures, and spending millions for victory of own candidate. Naturally, responsibility of the candidate and then the President towards the party is higher than in case of the candidate nominated in collective manner elected with respective majority. We can widely discuss this issue but we consider that this system is one of the most successful steps forward ensuring healthy Parliamentary democracy according to the best European practice”.
One of the weaknesses of the Constitution was the Chapter outlined in the Venice Commission opinion of 2010. “There was the fundamental problem contradicting with the principle of separation of powers. Now it is eliminated which is communicated in the Commission and it ensures enhancement of the Commission as the main Constitutional agency in the Parliamentary Republic. One of the representatives of the Presidential Administration mentioned as if the new model establishes over Prime Minister-style governance. New model establishes governance based on best European practice, practice of European Parliamentary democracies and it does not mean excessive authority. It was another attempt of misleading the society. The Chapter on Government is in compliance unlike the current edition with the fundamental principles of the Constitutional law. As to the voting results, we achieved consensus - 49 votes for. As to the Presidential part without elections – we also had consensus with none of the votes against either regarding the Chapter on President or on Defense. We also achieved consensus on Presidential authority, evidencing the fact that any speculations regarding restriction of Presidential authority remain speculations only”.
The changes in the part on Court serve for further enhancement of independence of the Court. The changes define nominal number of Judges of the Supreme Court to be 28. Nomination of Judges is changed with respective recommendation of Venice Commission. “We will ensure irreplaceability of Judges, which is the fundamental guarantee for independence of Judges. We also underline that in no case reorganization or liquidation of the Court shall serve the basis for dismissal of Judges. It is based on the offers by NGOs and experts. We clearly defined the rule of formation of Council of Justice. The Prosecutor’s Office shall be separated from executive authority to become an independent Constitutional agency”.
As to the part on finance and control, the Commission shared the proposals by the National Bank and Audit Service. The part on defense and security was also unregulated. “This issue is also fundamentally regulated now, clearly defining the functions upon martial law or state of emergency or generally in regards with defense and security issues. There were speculations about our competences but these speculations also remain as speculations only. We achieved full consensus on dense and security issues deriving that the new formulation is the only solution of the issue. We hear the speculations as if the country will no longer have the Supreme Commander and it will entail restriction of defense capacity, which is demagogy and lacks of any rational ground”.
Significant guarantees are provided in terms of self-governing unit autonomy and independence of state administration agencies. As to revision, so-called plural vote is being established. The Article 11 shall be added with the only record – “it concerns integration of Georgia to EU and NATO. This issue is defined as assignment at some extent, namely all the Constitutional agencies are assigned to make the decision within authority to ensure full EU and NATO integration”.
The Constitutional Law on Adjara AR status was fundamentally revised. “As to the common voting results, there were 43 for and 8 against. We held the rating voting for maintaining validity of current edition. We asked who supported non-amendment of the Constitution and revealed none of the votes for. Everyone recognized, including the members protesting some regulations that the changes are the significant progress ensuring healthy administration system”. New system is based on the best European practice.
The Speaker thanked the Commission members for their contribution. He also elucidated the procedure – initiation of the drafts will be ensured today in the Parliament. MPs intend to visit the regions to meet the population. Parliamentary consideration of the document will start in June.
The Speaker stated that the Parliament will not adopt any of the norms with negative estimation by Venice Commission. “We made a bold statement regarding Venice Commission stating that none of the norms will be adopted with negative estimation by Venice Commission in legal terms. In June, we will start Parliamentary consideration of the document. According to the current edition, we will hold two readings. In October or November, we will adopt the draft revision of the Constitution and changes will enact upon swearing in by the newly elected President. It means that next year we will hold the direct Presidential elections – postponing full enactment of the new administration system for 6 years and as to the Parliamentary elections, elections will be held in 2020 with the proportional system as prescribed under the draft to be submitted to the Parliament today”.
The Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze hosted the former US Ambassadors to Georgia, William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz. The parties discussed foreign political priorities of Georgia. According to the Speaker, foreign political priorities of Georgia envisage EU and NATO integration and enhancement of strategic partnership with USA, which is evidenced with the Resolution of December 29, 2016 of the Parliament.
The parties considered Georgia-Russia relations. As the Speaker noted, Georgia conducts pragmatic policy towards Russia aiming at reduction tension without crossing the red lines. The parties attached particular attention to the Constitutional reform, objectives thereof and scheduled changes.
The Speaker overviewed ongoing and scheduled reforms in terms of increase of independence of judicial system and socio-economic situation of the country, as well as ongoing political processes in the Parliament. The Ambassadors shared their opinions about development of Georgia and progress achieved by the country.