In 1993 some twenty-six parties and eleven factions held seats in the new parliament, which continued to be called the Supreme Soviet. The legislative branch's basic powers were outlined in the Law on State Power, an interim law rescinding the strict limits placed on legislative activity by Gamsakhurdia's 1991 constitution. Thus in 1993 the parliament had the power to elect and dismiss the head of state by a two-thirds vote; to nullify laws passed by local or national bodies if they conflicted with national law; to decide questions of war and peace; to reject any candidate for national office proposed by the head of state; and, upon demand of one-fifth of the deputies, to declare a vote of no confidence in the sitting cabinet.
Activity within the legislative body was prescribed by the Temporary Regulation of the Georgian Parliament. The parliament as a whole elected all administrative officials, including a speaker and two deputy speakers. Seventeen specialized commissions examined all bills in their respective fields. The speaker had little power over commission chairs or over deputies in general, and parliament suffered from an inefficient structure, insufficient staff, and poor communications. The two days per week allotted for legislative debate often did not allow full consideration of bills.
The major parliamentary reform factions--the Democrats, the Greens, the Liberals, the National Democrats, and the Republicans--were not able to maintain a coalition to promote reform legislation. Of that group, the National Democrats showed the most internal discipline. Shevardnadze received support from a large group of deputies from single-member districts, aligned with Liberals and Democrats. His radical opposition, a combination of several very small parties, was weakened by disunity, but it frequently was able to obstruct debate. The often disorderly parliamentary debates reduced support among the Georgian public, to whom sessions were widely televised.
In November 1993, Shevardnadze was able to merge three small parties with a breakaway faction of the Republicans to form a new party, the Union of Citizens of Georgia, of which he became chairman. This was a new step for the head of state, who previously had refrained from political identification and had relied on coalitions to support his policies. At the same time, Shevardnadze also sought to include the entire loose parliamentary coalition that had recently supported him, in a concerted effort to normalize government after the Abkhazian crisis abated.
|Country Studies main page | Georgia Country Studies main page|