With 117 votes in favour and two against, the Georgian parliament approved the revised text of the draft constitution on September 26. This was the third and final reading on the subject of the new constitution, and, just as with the previous two votes, opposition MPs boycotted the process.
The ruling Georgian Dream party, which controls a constitutional majority in parliament (meaning that it can change the constitution single-handedly), set up a commission to draft a new constitution in order to replace the country's outdated former set of laws from December 2016. However, the ruling party, opposition parties, the president and civil society have disagreed on multiple stipulations in the new constitution related to the method of election of parliament members and of the president, the definition of marriage and the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, among others.
The new constitution abolishes direct voting for the presidency starting in 2024 in favour of voting by a parliamentary commission and replaces the current mixed system of voting for parliament with a proportional voting system.
Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the constitutional commission, told MPs during the hearing that the new constitution represented everyone's interests, not just those of the ruling party. However, opposition lawmakers walked out during his discourse. Nika Melia, an MP from the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, reportedly told Kobakhidze that Georgian Dream was voting in a dictatorial and clan-based constitution.
The Venice Commission, the constitutional law body of the Council of Europe, provided feedback on the text of the document last week, suggesting some changes. It is unclear whether the changes were incorporated in the draft that the parliament voted for on September 26.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili can now veto the document, in which case it will return to parliament for a new round of voting. However, only half plus one - or 76 votes - will be required to overturn his veto.