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TBILISI, March 21 (RIA Novosti) – Lawmakers in Georgia tentatively approved amendments to the Constitution on Thursday depriving President Mikheil Saakashvili of the power to dismiss the Cabinet, disband parliament and call elections.
All 135 deputies present, including those from Saakashvili's United National Movement faction, voted in favor of the bill in its first reading.
The vote marks the latest stage in the ascendancy of Saakashvili's bitter political foe, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream opposition coalition defeated the UNM in parliamentary elections in October.
With definitive approval of the bill deemed a formality, Georgia will in the coming weeks bring forward its transition to a parliamentary system from October, as had earlier been envisioned by constitutional provisions approved in 2010.
The bill will have to go through a further two readings before it can pass into law.
Political tensions have been running high in Georgia with Saakashvili and Ivanishvili trading bitter barbs, but changes to the Constitution may help to mitigate charges that the president is seeking to abuse of his political power until his term expires in October.
Saakashvili expressed satisfaction on Thursday that the wrangling factions in parliament had agreed on the terms of the constitutional amendments.
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