Parliament Weekly: 18-24 February

On February 19, the Parliament’s plenary session was opened with the lawmakers’ statements.

MPs discussed and adopted with its first hearing the Bill on National Security Policy Planning and Coordination.

The bill foresees a new National Security Council functioning under the Prime Minister, responsible for national security policy planning and coordination, as well as for advising the Prime Minister on decisions affecting national security and state interests.

This advisory body will be chaired by the Prime Minister and will have eight permanent members: the Ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance, heads of state security and intelligence services, and chief of the defense forces. One of the National Security Council members will serve as its Secretary. The President of Georgia will not be represented in the Council.

The majority of questions asked by MPs were just related to the modalities of  involvement of the President, who by the Constitution holds the position of the Commander-in-chief, in the Council’s activities, since she is not foreseen to be its permanent member. In response, Natia Mikeladze, the government’s parliamentary secretary, noted that if interested, the President will be briefed about the work of the Council. According to Mikeladze, Prime Minister will be also be authorized to invite other, non-member officials, including the President, to the Council meetings.

On February 20, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Maia Tskitishvili reported to the Parliament on the 2019-2025 Decentralization Strategy and Action Plan of the Ministry for 2019-2020.

She noted that the key principles of the strategy involve increased powers for local self-governments, adding that the ministry is actively working in this direction. The Minister also focused on infrastructure projects planned by her agency, noting that GEL 2 billion will be invested for this purpose.

Amid recent developments around TBC Bank, a great part of MPs’ questions were just related to the construction of Anaklia port. Georgian TBC Holding associated with TBC’s Mamuka Khazaradze has been awarded the contract to build and operate deep-sea port on Georgia’s Black Sea coast in Anaklia, close to breakaway Abkhazia. In response to the lawmakers’ question, the Minister noted that if the Holding performs its obligations, the port construction will face no threat from the state.

On February 21, MPs discussed a legislative proposal submitted by MP Eka Beselia and eight more lawmakers on suspending lifetime appointment of city and appeals court judges until 2025.

The parliamentary debates were held amid strong confrontation among the majority MPs with part of GDDG lawmakers, including Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, slamming the proposal as “unconstitutional.” Kobakhidze accused the sponsors of the legislative proposal of having links with the opposition National Movement, triggering Beselia’s anger.

Ultimately, MPs have voted down Beselia’s legislative proposal, with 45 lawmakers voting for and 17 against. An significant number of remaining MPs were present, but did not vote.

On February 21, the Parliament discussed the draft resolution developed by the Alliance of Patriots faction on declaring the National Movement’s rule as “Saakashvili-Bokeria repressive regime.” The resolution called for bringing all key figures of “the regime” to justice within six months, as well as for punishing all perpetrators in high-profile cases. The draft resolution was voted down as only 45 lawmakers supported it and 16 voted against.

MPs Eka Beselia and Levan Gogichaishvili announced about quitting the Georgian Dream party, a day after the Parliament voted down their legislative proposal on suspending lifetime appointment of city and appeals court judges.

On February 22, MPs discussed the bill initiated by MP Beka Natsvlishvili on pension savings scheme. Natsvlishvili’s initiative was voted down that prompted the lawmaker to quit the Georgian Dream majority group. In protest against his colleagues who did not support the proposal, MP Beka Natsvlishvili also quit the ruling majority. Together with earlier defections, it left the Georgian Dream short of its constitutional majority in the Parliament. At least 113 lawmakers are required for any constitutional amendment to pass. After MP Natsvlishvili’s decision, the Georgian Dream has 112.

A year passed since Archil Tatunashvili’s death

On February 22, the members of the parliamentary majority group visited the Mukhatgverdi cemetery and laid a wreath at the grave of Archil Tatunashvili, a thirty-five-year-old Georgian citizen, who died at the hands of the Russian-backed authorities in Tskhinvali a year ago.

Marking Soviet Occupation

On February 23, when Georgia officially marked the Day of resistance to Soviet Occupation. Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Defense Minister Levan Izoria and some lawmakers laid the wreath at the memorial of Georgian cadets killed during the defense of Tbilisi in February, 1921. Tbilisi eventually fell to the invading Soviet army on February 25, 1921

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