President Salome Zurabishvili’s inauguration on December 16 marked entry into force of the new constitution, which completes the country’s evolution from semi-presidential to parliamentary system of governance.
Under the new constitution, direct presidential elections are to be abolished and the country will transition to fully proportional parliamentary representation. The constitution reduces president’s executive powers further, a process launched in the 2010 changes.
Below are the key points of Georgia’s new constitution:
- The President remains the head of state; the commander-in-chief; and representative in foreign relations; but no longer ensures “the functioning of state bodies within the scope of his/her powers granted by the Constitution;”
- The President loses the right “to request particular matters to be discussed at the Government session and participate in the discussion;”
- The President will no longer be elected through direct ballot, transferring the mandate to the college of electors composed of 300 members, including MPs, local and regional government representatives (starting from 2024);
- The President will be elected without prior debate on the Parliament floor through open ballot and will serve for a term of five years (six years in 2018-2024). The same person may serve as the President for two terms only;
- The eligibility age for the President increases from 35 to 40. The change applies to residence requirements as well; a potential candidate has to have lived in Georgia for at least 15 years. He/she, however, is no longer required to have lived in Georgia for the last three years before the election;
- The National Security Council, which “organizes the military development and defense of the country” and was led by the President under the previous constitution, will no longer exist. Instead, the newly adopted constitution establishes the National Defense Council, which will function only during martial law to coordinate the work of the constitutional bodies, and will consist of the President, the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Chairman and the Head of the Armed Forces of Georgia.
- Parliament will transfer to fully proportional representation. Undistributed mandates will be allocated proportionally among those parties, which clear a 5% election threshold;
- Electoral blocs will no longer be allowed;
- MPs nominated by one political party can only form one parliamentary faction;
- Candidacy age increases from current twenty-one to twenty-five years.
The 2020 Parliamentary election will be held using the current mixed electoral system, where voters elect 73 MPs in majoritarian, single-seat constituencies, while the remaining 77 seats will be distributed proportionally in the closed party-list contest. The threshold for entering the Parliament will be reduced to 3% and parties will be allowed to form electoral blocs.
- The Prime Minister organizes the Government activities and appoints and dismisses ministers;
- The Prime Minister is accountable for the activities of the Government before the Parliament. He/she will present the annual report on the implementation of the Government program to the Parliament.
- Article 78 in the transitional provisions stipulates that “the constitutional bodies shall take all available measures within their competence to ensure Georgia’s full integration into the European Union and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization;”
- Kutaisi is no longer defined as the parliamentary seat;
- Marriage is defined as “a union between a woman and a man for the purpose of creating a family;”
- The prosecutor’s office will longer function under the Ministry of Justice and will serve as an independent body accountable to the Parliament. The prosecutor general, elected by the Parliament for a term of six years, will run the office;
- The Public Defender is to be elected for a six-year term. The same person may serve as a public defender for one term only.