TBILISI, DFWatch–The government wants to strip the president of the power to set terms for student scholarships and studies abroad.
A new draft law about higher education will if passed let the it be up to the government to confirm the use of student advantages, while the Ministry of Education will be authorized to decide scholarship issues and the participation of Georgian youth in international knowledge competitions.
Irakli Gharibashvili was appointed prime minister in December, 2013, and has since tried to deprive more and more of the president’s powers, especially after his predecessor billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili criticized President Giorgi Margvelashvili in a TV interview in March and said that he doesn’t have anything to do with Margvelashvili anymore.
After the presidential election in October, 2013, constitutional amendments from 2010 came into force which increased the power of the prime minister while reducing that of the president. This was actually a failed plan by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who served out both of his presidential terms and was preparing to assume the post of PM when unexpectedly Ivanishvili went into politics. The then opposition, which is now in government, strongly opposed these amendments, but after coming into force left them in place in order to balance powers. PM Irakli Gharibashvili, who now has increased power, is trying to further reduce the power of the president and transfer it to himself.
Under the constitution, the president is head of state and commander in chief. The prime minister is head of government. The PM now wants to further strip away some of the functions of the president as commander in chief and make himself the decision maker. He is backed up by Ivanishvili, as Gharibashvili is his favorite and many people believe that Ivanishvili remains the real decision maker even though he has formally left politics.
From time to time, more power that used to belong to the president is transferred to the prime minister, either by amending a law or by interpreting a law differently, like in the recent signing of an association treaty with the EU. According to the constitution, the president signs international treaties, but instead the PM went to Brussels to sign it. The president wasn’t even part of the Georgian delegation.
Similarlly, it was decided to establish another security council in addition to the existing one; the new one is called Council of Security and Crisis Management. The president is commander in chief and has authority over the pre-existing National Security Council, not the new one. Gharbiashvili decided to create a same type of body which would have the same type of functions and would be focused on crisis management, for example in case of natural disasters. In the nd, it turned out that this body had the same functions as the Security Council.
The constitution also says that the president has power to grant Georgian citizenship. The PM wanted to require the PM’s countersigning for this, but this didn’t happen, as it required amending the constitution. The government coalition doesn’t control enough seats in parliament to amend the constitution, so the PM wanted to make the same change by amending ordinary laws, but this was followed by resistance from lawyers and failed. Finally, parliament ‘forgot’ about the initiative altogether.
However, Gharibashvili managed to strip the president of the power to grant scholarships and awards and now the president is to be deprived of the power to determine the usage of student advantage rules, participation in international competitions and defining the conditions for scholarship and studying abroad.