Obama administration urged to step in Georgian constitutional crisis

“Of course this will [provoke] a huge conflict,” Usupashvili said. “It's more than clear that an absolute majority of Georgian citizens support the Georgian Dream coalition and its leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili.”

“He has promised not to use this power. Well, we are old enough to know that such promises are just promises. Our answer to him is, 'if you say that you have a dangerous gun in your hands and you agree that this kind of gun is not something democratic presidents have in the world, why not put it down'?”

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The battle between Saakashvili and Ivanishvili ahead of last year's legislative elections played out in Washington through the dozen or so lobby shops and public relations firms they hired between the two of them. The new government has dropped many of those contracts, but has retained two top U.S. legal experts – Harvard Law School Professor Larry Lessig and Ohio Northern University Professor Howard Fenton – to make the case that Saakashvili's powers are undemocratic

Usupashvili said Saakashvili has asked that the constitutional reform be coupled with an amnesty for former government officials accused of corruption and other abuses of power. The president has accused the new government of using the courts to go after their opponents, but the government says it's merely following up on past allegations that have been gathering dust under Saakashvili.

Usupashvili said he's here to reassure lawmakers and Obama administration officials that the new government is respecting democratic reforms and isn't abandoning the west in favor of a close alliance with Russia, as Saakashvili asserts. To make his case, Usupashvili points to last week's passage of a bipartisan foreign policy blueprint that reasserts Georgia's bid for eventual membership in the European Union and rules out joining the Commonwealth of Independent States, an organization of nine former Soviet states aimed at preserving close ties with Russia.