It has been an eventful couple of weeks for Georgian politics. Multiple opposition factions endured intra party differences, leading to members to either quit or establish new factions. In addition, four members of the opposition have decided to enter parliament, while the rest still partakes in a boycott. Meanwhile, lawmakers are pushing for a bill that will terminate the funding of parties refusing to enter parliament.
Two Girchi parties?
On 26 December, one of opposition faction Girchi’s leaders, Zurab Japaridze, established a new party. Even though none of the heads specified in detail why this split occurred, Japaridze did make it clear that he no longer wished to collaborate with his former fellow party leaders. Remarkable is his new party’s name. Even though the formal name is More Freedom – Girchi, it will still be referred to as Girchi. Nina Sajaia, Japaridze’s assistant stated “In fact, it turns out that there will be two parties under the name of Girchi and there will be healthy competition”.
Alliance of Patriots members split and enter parliament
Pro-Russian opposition party Alliance of Patriots does not escape complications either. Members Irma Inashvili, Gocha Tevdoradze, Giorgi Lomia and Avtandil Enukidze have decided split off from the faction and entered parliament, while the remainder has refused this since the October 2020 elections. The reason being that they believe the elections to be rigged in favour of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) faction. Requests from the international community towards the political players to set aside their differences have been rejected. However, this is not the only change that the Alliance of Patriots has endured. Members Avtandil Enukidze, Zaza Mikadze, Pridon Injia and David Zilpimiani have already parted earlier and recently announced to establish the European Socialist Party. The four stated that the pressuring question of taking up their mandates or not made them leave.
New leaders in the UNM and European Georgia
Other changes can be seen in the United National Movement (UNM) and European Georgia. One of the latter’s faction leaders, Elene Khoshtaria, announced to retreat. Khoshtaria said she will “start an independent political life” and is not planning to enter parliament, nor join or start another party. Moreover, the UNM has a new Chairperson, Nika Melia, since late December. Melia replaces Grigol Vashadze, who left due to dissension with the faction’s leadership.
Bill to terminate boycotters funding
The changes come in a time where lawmakers are pushing for a new bill that would terminate the funding of parties that boycott parliament. The bill, initiated by ruling party GD, is focussed at factions refusing to take up at least half of their seats. Even though lawmaker Tea Tsulukiani stated that the measure is not targeted at the current boycott, it does seem like too large of a coincidence that the initiation takes place now. GD did make clear however, that they will only proceed to a second reading debate after the OSCE and the Venice Commission have looked into it.
Georgian Dream’s Chair resigns to “further strengthen” the party
GD has not stayed clear of changes either however, it seems that this event has nothing to do internal instability. Chair Bidzina Ivanishvili has decided to resign and return to his “pre-2011 private lifestyle”, leaving his seat for someone younger to “further strengthen” the faction. Ivanishvili, turning 65 soon, will most likely be succeeded by senior GD lawmaker, former speaker and campaign chief Irakli Kobakhidze. Kobakhidze has been nominated and should be officially elected on 16 January at the party’s congress where 400 delegates from all over Georgia will attend. Thus, while GD seems to be stronger than ever, the recent events show that the majority of the Georgian opposition party’s leadership is crumbling.
Sources: Agenda, Civil, Georgia Today1, Georgia Today2, Georgia Today3, Georgia Today4, Georgia Today5, Radio Free Europe