TBILISI, DFWatch — The governing coalition in Georgia wants parliament back to the capital Tbilisi, but with an added option to meet at other places if necessary.
Recent consultations among the Georgian Dream coalition, which came to power after the October 1, 2012 election, have shown support for an entirely new concept: parliament will have Tbilisi as its base, but lawmakers may also gather at other places around the country, if they see a need for it.
Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili said this could be done when there is a natural disaster like a flood; then the assembly members could choose to hold a session in the disaster area.
The new concept seems to draw inspiration from the previous government’s sessions. When the eastern Kakheti region of Georgia was hit by heavy rain and flooding last summer, President Saakashvili held a government session near the affected area. While his party was in government it often gathered at restaurants, at village squares or outdoors.
Parliament should have an opportunity to conduct its sessions outside of Tbilisi, for example in Batumi, Telavi and other places, when it is necessary, said Koba Davitashvili, member of parliament for Georgian Dream.
President Saakashvili in late 2011 announced that the location of parliament would be changed from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, the second city. Because the location is enshrined in the constitution, it required a constitutional change to do so.
The decision was unpopular, and although the stated reason was to decentralize state institutions, many believe the real reason was that Tbilisi is a hotbed for anti-Saakashvili sentiment.
The new dome-shaped parliament in Kutaisi was opened May 26, 2012, with a first symbolic session and a military parade marking Georgia’s Independence Day.
The speedy construction process has been marred by accidents. A mother and child were killed in 2009 when a World War 2 memorial was blown up to make room for the new parliament. In June 2012, a worker died as a result of a collapse of one of the wings of the new building.
After winning a majority in the election, Georgian Dream has been discussing how to reverse Saakashvili’s decision, which will require another constitutional change.
Coalition members have now agreed on removing article 48 of the constitution, which states the location of parliament, and instead let the location issue be a matter for parliament’s own regulation to decide.
Saakashvili’s National Movement party argues against making any changes now, as being based in Kutaisi will help decentralizing the country. Georgian Dream has proposed making the new parliament building into a university, which would also help in the decentralization.
But it is still uncertain whether the new plan will be passed. In order to do this, a two third majority or at least 100 votes is needed, and Georgian Dream only controls 85 seats. Six former National Movement delegates who left and set up their own faction have signaled support for the draft bill, as well as one from National Movement, but that still leaves the coalition eight votes short of the required one hundred.
If passed, the changes will probably take place in February 2013.