President of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio paid an official visit to Georgia this week. He met with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze regarding the constitutional changes which were adopted earlier this month. On June 29, the Venice Commission president met with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
After the meeting, Buquicchio said that he is ‘disappointed’ with the ongoing processes in Georgia regarding the constitution.
“I am very, very disappointed. I become more and more disappointed with every hour, as I deeply believed that the Georgian political class could manage to make a step forward towards a more democratic constitution. Today, unfortunately, you’re in crisis. I am disappointed because this process is blocked. I cannot see the dialogue between the two sides. My message would be the following: Talk to each other. During the meeting with the President we’ve agreed that dialogue is very important,” Buquicchio said.
President Margvelashvili also commented regarding the constitutional changes:
“Today we’re in a blind alley situation. In order to not stop Georgian democratic development, and to not allow Georgian democracy to go into a blind alley, we should analyze the situation. The [ruling] Georgian Dream party should realize that this process is seriously damaging democratic development and the image of the country. Let’s start the constitutional process in a way that there is dialogue, involvement, and consensus,” Margvelashvili said.
Media outlet agenda.ge reported on the meeting that: “Kvirikashvili told the Venice Commission official that the amendments in the country’s main law [in the constitution] were elaborated through the active engagement of NGOs, politicians and independent experts, which was followed by ‘unprecedented public discussion.’”
On June 27, 33 non-governmental organizations in Georgia sent a joint letter regarding the newly-adopted constitutional changes to high-level European officials, including the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, Secretary of Venice Commission Thomas Markert, and to the US Department of State.
The NGOs write that the constitutional changes is a “dangerous attempt to consolidate political power” by the ruling party, and “adversely affects the quality of democracy” in Georgia.
Parliament approved the changes to the constitution at a plenary session on June 22. The changes mainly concern switching to new types of election system for both presidential and parliamentary elections.