Is the parliamentary majority capable of overcoming the President’s veto?
As a result of the October 1 parliamentary elections, for the first time in Georgia the President and the parliamentary majority are from different political parties. For that reason it is especially interesting to see what kind leverage each possesses.
In accordance with the election results, the Georgian Dream Coalition is represented by 85 MPs, while the United National Movement is represented by 65. However, after three majoritarians from the Georgian Dream Coalition were appointed to positions in the executive government, and six MPs left the United National Movement (one of them joined the parliamentary majority and the other five created a new faction), the picture has changed slightly and now the distribution of political power in the supreme legislative body is as follows:
- Majority (Georgian Dream): 83 MPs
- Minority (United National Movement): 58 MPs
- Non-Partisan, Independent Majoritarians Faction: 6 MPs
To adopt an ordinary law, the votes of 50 MPs are sufficient, while 76 votes are needed for passing an organic law and 100 votes for a constitutional law. This means that the Georgian Dream Coalition is not capable of making changes to the Constitution without support from the opposition. Furthermore, in the case of opposition from the President, Georgian Dream might theoretically not even be able to adopt ordinary laws.
According to the Constitution of Georgia, a draft law adopted by the parliament is passed to the President within seven days, and the President signs it within ten days time and later publishes the law, or else refers it back to Parliament with remarks and suggested amendments. Acceptance of these amendments requires the same number of votes as is established by the constitution for this type of draft law. If Parliament does not accept the changes, the original version of the draft will be voted on. In such cases, the law or the organic law will adopted if more than three fifths of sitting parliamentarians vote in favor. At present, the Parliamentary list comprises 147 MPs. Three fifths of 147 is 88.2, so in order to overcome a presidential veto support from 89 MPs is needed.
As already mentioned, there are currently only 83 MPs representing the majority, and this means that in order to override Presidential amendments, Georgian Dream will need the full support of MPs from the Non-Partisan Majoritarians Faction. It should be stressed that Non-Partisan, Independent Majoritarians Faction MPs have already expressed their support for the initiatives of the Georgian Dream majority on several occasions.
In addition, there is a current draft law initiated by the Parliamentary majority, through which in case of any reduction in the number of majoritarian MPs in the Parliament, midterm elections would be held, not only in October but in April as well. The number of MPs on the Parliamentary list will also be increased to 150 to replace the Georgian Dream MPs appointed to the executive branch. This would shift the threshold for overcoming a presidential veto from 88.2 to 90. If the Georgian Dream coalition were able to win at least one of these three bi-elections, then it would still possess the theoretical ability to override Presidential amendments.
As mentioned above, this is the first time in Georgia that the President and the Parliamentary majority are representatives of different political ideologies. Therefore, the President’s power to refer draft laws back to the Parliament with amendments has until now never been used. The Parliament of the Eighth Convocation has not adopted any bills so far, so it is hard to predict how the President will use the authority granted to him by constitution.