Last week Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili who had been in office since 2013, unexpectedly resigned from his post. He was succeeded by Georgi Kvirikashvili, in a vote supported by the majority of parliament. Garibashvili served as head of Georgia’s government led by the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition, since 2012. Although no statement was released on the reason of Garibashvili’s departure, support for his ruling Georgian Dream party has declined in the past months according to opinion polls, and the political playfield is strongly divided.
Need for new faces
In a televised speech on 23 December Garibashvili emphasized that Georgia is a “young democracy” and “therefore it is of huge importance what kind of example we will set for our children and future generations”. His successor Kvirikashvili, former Foreign Minister and Vice PM, will be the third PM since Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, succeeding both him and Bidzina Ivanishvili. The latter is still very involved with the party. In a TV interview Ivanishvili said that “the team requires to be reshuffled” and that it is “desirable to have new faces” in the party and government. He stated that Garibashvili “resigned at the peak of his success […] to let others try [the leadership]. However, GD MP Gubaz Sanikidze insisted that “we should know why the PM resigned – it’s not about Garibashvili personally, it’s about the Prime Minister institutionally”. Fellow GD MP Manana Kobakhidze warned that “asking such questions by our own team members will cause even more misunderstanding”. A new government was approved, with only one new member, as former deputy Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze was appointed the new Foreign Minister.
Extended hand to opposition
Kvirikashvili urged that his cabinet would be open to cooperation with the opposition, a move welcomed by some opposition MPs. In his remarks before parliament he thanked the opposition “who easily adjusted to new political reality and did not leave my extended hand of cooperation hanging in the air.” UNM MP Giorgi Tevdoradze said that “unlike your predecessor you strike a constructive tone and it is welcomed”. GD MPs, meanwhile, were critical of the opposition and accused them of “instilling hopelessness in society, especially ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections”. MPs from the opposition United National Movement (UNM) and the Free Democrats (FD) did not support the vote for a new PM, as they believed it would not make a change. FD MP Shalva Shavgulidze said that the cabinet was weak because of the “informal and unlimited influence of Ivanishvili over this government”.UNM MP Chiora Taktakishvili said to Kvirikashvili “You said you are hired by the people, but in fact you are hired by Bidzina Ivanishvili and not by the people”.
In October elections will take place in Georgia. Recent polls have shown that society is divided on the politics in the country. A poll commissioned by the US National Democratic Institute (NDI) in November 2015, showed that 32% of those interviewed did not know what party they would vote for, while 5% said they would not vote for any of the parties. 18% of the respondents said that they would vote for Georgian Dream, compared to 24% in April 2015. The main opposition parties, the UNM and the FD, had 12% and 7% support according to the poll. Also 45% of respondents said they believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction, compared to 16% in August 2014. NDI’s Senior Country Director Georgia, Laura Thornton, said that “the electoral playing field remains wide open” as “no party is significantly ahead and most Georgians are undecided about their political preferences.”