Georgia - Government
Until 1995, Georgia was governed according to a constitution dating back to 1921. Shevardnadze, though, pushed for the adoption of a new constitution giving the president added powers. A new constitution was approved by the legislature in August 1995. It reestablishes a strong presidency, though affirming a balance of executive and legislative powers more equitable than those in most other new constitutions approved by former Soviet republics. The president is elected for a 5-year term. The constitution establishes a unicameral, 235-member legislature elected by single-mandate constituencies (85 seats) and party lists (150 seats). Legislators serve 4-year terms. Government ministers are responsible to the president, who is assisted by a state minister. Shevardnadze in December 1999 decreed enhanced powers for the state minister "equal to those of a prime minister." The speaker's only constitutional powers are to sign bills and serve as acting president in case the president is indisposed or dies. The legislature agreed that federal provisions would be added to the constitution after Georgia's territorial integrity has been assured. The breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are currently not under the control of the central government, and Ajaria, under the autarchic leadership of Aslan Abashidze, is at least partly self-governing.
Voting for the new legislature took place on 5 November 1995, simultaneous with the presidential race. Only three of the 54 parties running received at least 5% of the party list vote required to win seats, though other parties won representation through constituency races; they have formed eight legislative factions. The elections were judged "consistent with democratic norms" by international observers.
Legislative elections were held most recently on 31 October and 14 November 1999. Voting was by party lists (150 seats) and single-member constituencies (73 seats; twelve sitting members representing separatist Abkhaz districts were allowed to retain their seats). Thirty-two parties and blocs were registered. Three parties received at least 7% of the vote needed to gain party list seats (the new minimum was approved in July 1999). Runoff races were held in November in about two dozen constituencies where no one candidate had received at least one-third of the vote. When the legislature convened on 20 November 1999, the Citizens' Union Party held 130 seats, the Revival Party 58 seats, Industry 15 seats, the Labor Party two seats, and independents 16 seats. Citizens' Union claimed the speakership and two of four deputy speakerships. Two other deputy speakers representing Abkhaz and Ajarian interests marked a federal element. The OSCE reported that the election appeared mostly fair, but a lack of transparency in the electoral law and irregularities in runoffs marred full compliance with OSCE standards. The next general elections are due to be held in 2003.