TBILISI, DFWatch – Changes in how the leader of Georgia’s Adajara region is chosen raises further suspicion that power is being concentrated in the office of the prime minister, increasing fears of a Putin scenario.
The president has agreed with the government about the candidacy of the Chairman of the Adjara’s Autonomous Republic of Georgia. He will present the candidate to the Adjarian Supreme Board for approval. Due to the current constitution, the president doesn’t need governmental approval for this.
Some experts see the decision as an attempt to increase the Prime Minister’s power even further, while others see this initiative in light of last year’s constitutional amendments. Both sides think it’s a problem that due to the current constitution and these amendments, the issue of decentralizing government powers remains controversial.
The amendment, which changes the country’s management model, has been in the constitution since October 2010. The presidential authority is significantly reduced, and the Prime Minister’s rights are increased. It was a very controversial issue at the time, because experts don’t think these amendments can solve the problems with power balance in the country. Moreover, there is an expectation to see a Putin scenario repeated, an increased chance of today’s president becoming Prime Minister with increased powers.
The latest constitutional amendment concern the Law about Autonomous Republic Status and was presented in parliament on November 11. This initiative will increase the Prime Minister’s authority further, according to experts DFWatch spoke to.
According to the bill, the Georgian President will present his candidate for Chairman of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara to the Supreme Board, after preliminary consent from the government. This should happen within 10 days of the report of the newly elected Adjarian Autonomous Republic Board, and after consultations with political subjects have been presented to the Supreme Board. This used to happen without agreeing with the government.
The proposal will mean that this regulation should be enforced by the president elected in the presidential elections in 2013 October after he has been sworn in.
“Nothing changes this project for Adjara, because the President would present the candidate and the Supreme Board should approve or reject him before; and president would present the candidate again. So the initiative in this case belonged to the central government and the president, not to Adjara,” legal expert Vakhtang Khmaladze says.
He focuses on the fact that this generally regulation contradicts the principle of separation of power. Specifically, vertical separation, which means when a regional elected body cannot name and elect the governmental chairmen itself.
Constitutionalist Zurab Jigbgashvili shares his opinion. The main problem as he sees it is that this amendment strengthens the Prime Minister’s authority, as Khmaladze says.
“This procedure reduces the president’s powers. Accordingly, the already strengthened position of Prime Minister is increasing, because the president’s won’t be able to present the Adjarian governmental chairman without agreeing with him. Although, it says that he should present the candidate through agreeing with government; but here the key will be Prime Minister, because the governmental formation also depends on the Prime Minister,” he explains.
“Giving this right to the Prime Minister raises his political weight and influence even more. Considering the fact that the Prime Minister in reality will be uncontrolled by parliament,” Khmaladze adds.
Zurab Jibgashvili also thinks that the Prime Minister’s authority is increasing. But he notes that this is based on a decision from last year. He thinks it’s a logic change, because otherwise, if this powers would remain with the president, then it would be out of context.
“It was clearly reflected in the constitution, regarding central government. But along with this should be followed changes to the president’s status regarding the Adjarian Executive Body. So here appears an extra circle in the form of central government. So the president agrees with the government on the candidate before presenting him to Adjara. It’s about the promotion of the role of executive body than personally of the Prime Minister. The approval procedure cannot only involve the Prime Minister. It is agreed with government and the decision-making process for the government is defined by law – as the rule of making a decision in a collegial body,” Jibgashvili says.