Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has announced that, for the next six months, she will veto ‘all laws’ that move the country in the ‘wrong direction’. She has already vetoed a controversial surveillance bill, it is the first veto of her presidency.
She delivered the address on the evening of 22 June.
‘There can’t be adopted a law in Georgia these days that restricts human rights when, on the contrary, we are asked to be more democratic, and more European’, the Georgian president said.
According to the Georgian Constitution, overruling a presidential veto requires a majority of parliamentary votes in parliament, the same number of votes needed to pass the law in the first place.
Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze, himself a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party — which controls a majority of seats in the parliament — said Zurabishvili’s veto of the surveillance bill would indeed be overruled.
‘These changes today directly address the security challenges facing Georgia. So it is unclear why the veto was used in this case?’ he told reporters. ‘We have already backed [the bill] and accepted these changes in Parliament because there are convincing arguments.’
‘At the next session, when the topic is again brought to the Parliament, we will discuss it and will make the decision to support it again.’
The bill was passed in April of this year. It seeks to expand the powers of law enforcement agencies and the security services to indefinitely surveil suspects in criminal cases.
The bill sparked an outcry from democracy watchdogs and rights organisations, who said that the amendments are unnecessary and invasive.
Eleven civil rights groups, including Transparency International Georgia, the Social Justice Centre, and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, released a joint statement criticising the draft law, calling it a ‘step back’ from regulations adopted in 2014.
During the briefing, Zurabishvili explained that the reason why she didn’t use her veto powers before was that she expected to be overruled and that this would have a detrimental effect on the presidency as an institution.