President Giorgi Margvelashvili with Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan in March, 2014. (Photo by Defense Ministry.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The government in Georgia wants to limit the power of the president as commander in chief.

The draft bill will take away the president’s power to approve the regulation of the Joint Staff, and the head of the Joint Staff will become subordinate to Defense Ministry instead of the president.

According to the Georgian Constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces. The previous government amended the Constitution and reduced the power of the president significantly, while increasing the power of the prime minister.

It was believed at the time that ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was nearing the end of his second term, was preparing to assume the post as PM – dubbed a ‘Putin scenario’ by critics – but an opposition coalition grew in popularity through 2011 and effectively blocked this option by winning the election the following year.

The new constitutional amendments came into force after the presidential election in 2013, and many of the president’s responsibilities were transferred to the executive, though he still remains commander in chief and head of state.

The new president, Margvelashvili, has frequently been in open confrontation with the PM and it is quite obvious that the the PM is attempting to take away as much of the president’s powers as possible, also through amending the legislation.

Under current law, the military advisor to the commander in chief is the head of the Joint Staff, who chairs and manages the armed forces, and this person is appointed and dismissed by the president.

The new draft by the Defense Ministry says that the president will no longer be able to approve regulation of the Joint Staff and the head of the Joint Staff will become subordinate to Defense Ministry instead of the president.

The draft also foresees that in case of emergency, war or crisis, the coordination of national security planning will be carried out by the State Security and Crisis Management Council. This is a new body recently created by the new government which is subordinate to the Prime Minister, and is much alike the old Security Council, which is subordinate to the president, and has had responsibility for crisis management until now.

The draft was sent to parliament in April, but review of it has not yet started.

chairs Defense and Security Committee in parliament Irakli Sesiashvili from the Georgian Dream told Interpressnews on Monday that the work on the draft is temporarily suspended and will continue after the assembly is finished working on the law about the National Security Council.

He said that the law on defense must comply with the law on the National Security Council, which is why it is necessary to finish work on the latter. If it doesn’t comply with the law on NSC then the Defense Ministry may withdraw its latest draft, according to him.

He also underlined that the ministry’s draft doesn’t take away the president’s power to appoint the head of the Joint Staff.

According to Giorgi Kverenchkhiladze, President’s parliamentary secretary, the president is granted power of commander in chief by the Constitution and this cannot be taken from him whatever is written in any law.