(civil) - The Georgian Parliament plans to discuss draft constitutional amendments at a special session on December 14, triggering protests from opposition lawmakers.
The initial draft of the constitutional amendments, proposed by the President Saakashvili in late October, said that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held simultaneously sometime between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008, which means an extension of the term of the current legislative body, reports Trend.
The exact date of elections would be up to the President. The amendment stipulates that these provisions for the presidential and parliamentarian elections will be applicable only once, in 2008.
This provision is a major source of controversy, as opponents claim that an extension of the current Parliament's term in office would be a negative precedent. Lawmakers from the ruling party argue that simultaneous elections are necessary because of foreign policy reasons, as the upcoming polls will be seen as an approval referendum for the current authorities' course against the background of Russia's mounting pressure on Georgia.
After month-long public discussions, which involved several roundtable debates, remarks were sent back to the President, who now has to re-submit the draft to the parliament. But it is not yet clear whether the draft will contain new provisions. It is expected that the deadline of elections date may be reduced from December 31 to December 1.
Opposition lawmakers expected the draft amendments to be discussed during parliament's 2007 spring session, when an assessment by the Venice Commission - the CoE's advisory body for constitutional issues is available.
However, the ruling majority says that the Parliament will discuss only part of the constitutional amendments at its first hearing. The other part, which concerns the relationship between the President and parliament, in particular the issue of dissolving the parliament, will be discussed at the legislative body's spring session. The ruling majority also claims that if the constitutional amendments do not comply with the Venice Commission conclusions they will also be revised during the second hearing.