Here’s what’s next
Like almost everyone in Georgia, we have a lot of questions about what will happen over the next few months as power transfers to the Georgian Dream. We can’t predict the future, of course, but we decided to do some research to answer some of our own questions about the requirements of Georgian law during the transitional period; we hope that the information we found will be useful to others as well.
Final election results: By law, the Central Election Commission (CEC) is required to publish final results within 19 days after the election. The CEC website currently shows that 100% of results have been published, but the results will not be certified as final until all pending court cases regarding alleged violations are resolved.
Repeat elections: If results in any election precinct are declared invalid, a repeat vote must be held, and the overall results for the district in which that precinct is located will not be known until after the repeat vote has taken place. If a repeat is scheduled, it must take place within 14 days of the original election date. A repeat vote will at least be necessary in one precinct in the Sighnaghi district, where the results were invalidated after TI Georgia uncovered what were apparently fraudulent records of vote totals.
First sitting of new Parliament: The first sitting of the newly-elected Parliament must take place within 20 days of the day on which the CEC announces final election results. The President chooses the exact date. Repeat elections do not delay the sitting of the new Parliament.
Interim lawmaking: The members of the outgoing Parliament continue to hold legislative power until the first sitting of the new Parliament. In practice, this power is never exercised.
Formation of the Government: According to the Constitution, the President must nominate a candidate for Prime Minister within seven days after the first sitting of the new Parliament. The nominee must then choose the members of his or her government within ten days, after which the President must present the new government to the Parliament for approval within three days. Because Mikheil Saakashvili has publicly stated that he will not interfere in the Georgian Dream’s (GD) selection of a government, this functionally means that the GD will choose the nominee for Prime Minister, and Saakashvili will nominate whomever the GD selects. The GD-controlled Parliament will presumably then approve the nominee’s governmental plan.
If the President’s nominee for Prime Minister is rejected three times by Parliament, the President can select an interim government without the consent of Parliament. Normally, this would trigger an extraordinary Parliamentary election, but due to limitations on when an outgoing president can dismiss the Parliament, it is possible that this interim government might hold power until the end of Saakashvili’s term in 2013. This scenario is unlikely, because Saakashvili has publicly stated that he will not prevent the Georgian Dream from selecting the government of their choice.
Citizenship requirements: The constitutional provision (Article 1044) which would have allowed Ivanishvili to take part in Parliamentary elections, had he chosen to do so, does not specifically mention the role of Prime Minister. It says:
1. Up to 1 January 2014, the citizens of the EU member states, along with the citizens of Georgia, can vote in and run for the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in Georgia if they were born in Georgia and have been living in the country for the past five years.
There is some disagreement over whether this amendment gives Ivanishvili the right to become Prime Minister, assuming he does not gain Georgian citizenship.
This constitutional provision expires in 2014, so it is also unclear whether Ivanishvili could continue to serve as Prime Minister after the expiration of the provision if he is not a Georgian citizen.
Additionally, a second provision, Article 29(1)1, bars Georgian citizens from becoming Prime Minister if they are also citizens of another country. If Ivanishvili does gain Georgian citizenship, it appears that he would have to renounce his French citizenship in order to be Prime Minister.
Dissolution of Parliament: The President retains the power to dissolve Parliament, but is barred from doing so within six months after a Parliamentary election, and less than six months before the end of his term. Depending on the date of the Presidential election in 2013, there could be a few weeks or days in the spring of 2013 during which the President could legally dissolve the Parliament. However, there are a limited number of situations, relating to the budget and votes of no confidence, in which the President may dissolve the Parliament.
Asset Declarations: Any new government officials, including MPs and cabinet members, will be required to file full asset disclosures within two months of taking office. This would include Bidzina Ivanishvili, were he to become Prime Minister.
Parliamentary thresholds: The threshold to pass a law in Parliament is a majority of MPs present, but no less than 50; to pass an organic law (a special type of law defined in the Georgian constitution) requires a majority of sitting MPs, usually 76 votes. To override a Presidential veto, 90 votes are required. To amend the Constitution, 100 votes are required (although only 76 votes are needed to initiate an amendment).
When the Constitutional amendments passed in 2010 come into effect after next year’s Presidential elections, these thresholds will change. Amending the Constitution will become significantly more difficult, requiring 113 votes, and passage in two separate sessions, with the dates of these votes separated by at least three months. The President will retain veto power, but it will become easier for Parliament to override a veto, requiring only a majority of sitting MPs for ordinary laws and 76 votes for organic laws.
Majoritarians and the Cabinet: Any MPs who are appointed to hold executive posts will no longer be able to serve in Parliament. In the case of majoritarian MPs, a by-election would then be required to fill the vacant seat. However, these by-elections cannot happen until next October, and so these seats would remain vacant for approximately one year. So far, the Georgian Dream has selected three majoritarians for executive posts, but some positions remain unfilled, so the makeup of Parliament could further shift depending on whom the Georgian Dream selects.