Georgian president vetoes new constitution draft

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Monday vetoed a draft new constitution and sent it back to parliament with his objections which included opposing its call for an end to direct elections for president.

FILE PHOTO - Georgia's President Giorgi Margvelashvili addresses soldiers during the oath-taking ceremony on Georgia's Independence Day in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Parliament, which is dominated by the Georgian Dream Party, adopted the new draft last week over objections from Margvelashvili and the opposition.

Under this new proposed new constitution, direct elections for president would be abolished from 2024, the country would transfer to full proportional parliamentary representation and the system of electoral blocs would be scrapped.

In a televised statement, Margvelashvili, who was elected in 2013 for a five-year term, said he remained in favor of direct presidential elections rather than a system in which the president would be appointed by parliament.

He said he had proposed to the parliamentary majority to allow parties to form electoral blocs for the next parliamentary elections in 2020.

He said he also supported scrapping the voting “bonus” system under which votes of parties that failed to muster enough support to enter parliament would be transferred to the winner of the election.

He also supported a switch to a proportional electoral system in 2020.

“I will send my justified objection to the parliament today,” Margvelashvili said.

The next presidential election in Georgia is to be held in 2018 and it is not clear whether Margvelashvili, who is at odds with the ruling party on several issues, will stand again.

MPs from the Georgian Dream said after adopting the new constitution that they would give ground on only two of the president’s objections -- allowing the parties to form electoral blocs and scrapping the voting bonus system.

The ruling party has a constitutional majority at the parliament, allowing it to overcome the president’s veto.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze; editing by Richard Balmforth