President Giorgi Margvelashvili walked out on political debates following his annual state of the nation address today, citing lack of ability to respond to questions raised by the lawmakers.
President Margvelashvili, who attended the legislators’ podium speeches for nearly 1.5 hours, requested possibility to follow up on their remarks. “I have to have a chance to engage into debates; this is not a debate, when I [only] listen to their opinions, and I cannot participate,” he said.
The President then called on the MPs to allow him to respond to their questions, and said he would leave the chamber unless they decided so.
Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze rejected the President’s request, saying this would be a breach of the parliamentary regulations, and that he would have a chance to follow up on the questions after the speeches, prompting Margvelashvili’s departure.
The Parliament Speaker then accused the President of disrespecting the law and the Parliament. “The regulations define the procedures for political debates clearly … and I have a feeling that [what Mr. Giorgi did today] was pre-planned,” he also said.
President Margvelashvili, on the other hand, stressed in his press remarks outside the chamber that the regulations did not contain any reference that the right to response was not allowed during debates.
Kobakhidze’s assessments were echoed by other ruling party MPs. The lawmakers from all three parliamentary opposition parties, however, stressed the President should have been allowed to respond to the MP speeches.
Speaker Kobakhidze put the question to vote shortly thereafter, with the Parliament turning down the presidential request with 28 votes in favor and 50 against. The Parliament’s rejection prompted the walkout of the European Georgia lawmakers.
President Margvelashvili assessed the decision in his brief remarks to media, stressing before his departure from the parliament building in Kutaisi that he would “carefully listen” to the lawmakers, and respond to their questions through alternative means.