Irakli Kobakhidze. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgian Dream is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election.

“The rules of presidential elections has been a topic of a lot of speculation,”
parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said at a meeting of the constitutional commission on Thursday.

“We think we should eliminate any excuse for such speculation. Therefore, the stance of the leadership of the ruling team is that it is desirable, in order to avoid such speculation, to hold direct elections next time and afterwards we can switch [to the alternative system].”

The constitutional commission comprises politicians from the ruling party and opposition, as well as members of civil society and experts. It is tasked with ‘improving’ the current Constitution. However, the opposition and many civic activists fear that Georgian Dream is planning to adjust the Constitution to fit its political agenda. These fears are well-founded as GD holds a constitutional majority in the parliament, i.e. over three quarter of seats, and can adopt any amendment it wants. Curtailing the powers of the president is regarded as part of this process.

Current President Giorgi Margvelashvili was elected with the strong support of then Pime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, but afterward they engaged in bitter rivalry.

Margvelashvili’s term expires in 2018.

Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire and the founder of GD, is believed to have a strong influence on the ruling party, although officially he retired from politics in 2013. He has repeatedly underlined the need for the president to be elected by the parliament, claiming that direct elections do not correspond to the real powers of the office of president.