Dainius Žalimas: similar histories of Lithuania and Georgia determine similar constitutional traditions of the countries
The President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, participated in the remote conference “First Constitution of Georgia: Legal and Political Aspects”, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the first Constitution of Georgia.
Dainius Žalimas read the report “The Comparative Analysis of the First Constitutions of Georgia and Lithuania” to the participants of the international conference.
“I would like to point out that historical parallels in the development of our countries also determine their similar constitutional traditions. Our countries declared independence in the same year, 1918. The Constituent Parliament of Georgia was elected in 1919, and the Constituent Parliament of Lithuania was elected in 1920, the first Georgia’s Constitution was adopted in 1921 and the first permanent Constitution of Lithuania was adopted a year later,” Dainius Žalimas said. “Our countries faced similar external and internal threats. I think this is one of the reasons why the content of our first constitutions is so similar.”
Dainius Žalimas drew attention to the most important similarities between the first constitutions of Lithuania and Georgia. First, the principle of the supremacy of the constitution was enshrined in both constitutions, declaring that acts contrary to the Constitution are invalid. However, Georgia’s Constitution shows clearer beginnings of constitutional review: the Supreme Court was given the task of overseeing the implementation of laws. Second, the constitutions of both countries were characterised by their progressive and comprehensive catalogue of human rights. Dainius Žalimas drew attention to the fact that both countries were among the first in Europe to grant women the right to vote.
“The differences in the constitutions were determined by different political forces, which formed the majority in the constituent parliaments: the Constituent Seimas of Lithuania was dominated by Christian Democrats, while the Constituent Assembly of Georgia was dominated by Social Democrats. This explains why the Constitution of Georgia had a much more developed block of social rights. There was another difference that showed Lithuania’s weak point: Georgia’s Constitution banned the death penalty, while Lithuania’s Constitution took a step back in this respect, as it did not prohibit the death penalty, although such a prohibition had been enshrined in the Provisional Constitution of 1919,” Dainius Žalimas stressed.
Third, Dainius Žalimas noted, the most important common feature of both constitutions is the establishment of a parliamentary republic.
“In both countries, prior to the adoption of the constitutions, many discussions were held on the necessity of a presidential institution. Georgia abandoned this institution altogether, and the duties of the head of state were to be performed by the head of government. Although the institution of the President was established in Lithuania, the President had little power and was completely dependent on the activities of the parliament. Thus, the parliamentary form of government, which was established in both countries, could also be called ‘parliamentocracy’,” Dainius Žalimas said. He noted that, despite the short validity of the first constitutions of Lithuania and Georgia, they had a great influence on the national identity of our countries and the formation of constitutional traditions. It is no coincidence that the first constitutions of the countries are mentioned in the preambles of the currently effective constitutions of Lithuania and Georgia. The first constitutions laid the foundations for the modern concept of a state under the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution, as well as for the tradition of a parliamentary republic. Dainius Žalimas drew attention to the fact that in all the post-Soviet countries where the form of government of a presidential republic was introduced, authoritarian regimes sooner or later were established. This shows that the tradition of a parliamentary republic remains particularly important for the current development of our countries.
The international conference reviewed the history of drafting the constitutions of other European states, and discussed the geopolitical situation during the drafting and adoption by Georgia of its first Constitution in 1918–1921. The conference was attended by the Rector of Ilia State University, Giga Zedania, and scientists from this university; the Vice-President of the Venice Commission, Philip Dimitrov; the Vice-President of Institut Noé Jordania, Christine Pagava Boulez; the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and Professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Hanna Suchocka; former President of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, George Papuashvili, etc.