Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said on Wednesday that he decided to demote Defense Minister Irakli Alasania by relinquishing his duties of the First Deputy PM after Alasania's discussions within his party and behind PM's back about Alasania's possible presidential candidacy triggered unhelpful rumors.
Speaking with Georgian journalists in Davos, where he attends the World Economic Forum, Ivanishvili said on January 23, that despite of his decision to demote Alasania, relations between the two remained "the same as before."
Ivanishvili said that Alasania took his decision "with understanding."
"There was simply a misunderstanding that can happen to any politician," PM Ivanishvili said. "He started discussions within his team, in a narrow circle whether to name himself as [a presidential] candidate. This [issue], discussed in a narrow circle, was then leaked to a wider [public]."
He said that it was "Irakli's small mistake".
Ivanishvili also said that when he recently decided to pay more attention to development of his own party, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG), including in the provinces, he in advance informed about it and consulted over it with other parties within the six-party Georgian Dream (GD) coalition.
Ivanishvili also said that rumors about Alasania's possible candidacy for the president had a negative affect on the GD coalition as a whole in the provinces as some local activists and officials in the regions started to misuse these rumors. He said that recently head of his GDDG party's local branch in Ozurgeti told him that he was approached by a local police chief telling him to quit GDDG and join Alasania's OGFD party as Alasania would inevitably become the president.
"So after this elementary carelessness, shown by Irakli, to discuss this issue internally [within his own party] instead of raising the issue within the coalition and agreeing it with me, [information] was leaked, leading to such misinterpretations in the provinces. So this kind of misunderstanding took place," Ivanishvili said.
"It would have been better if it had never happened, but it's normal, it happens sometimes," he said. "What is important is to make everything clear."
Ivanishvili said that demotion of Alasania by stripping his vice-premiership post would help to allay fuss in the provinces over groundless rumors.
"And there will be nothing bad for Irakli too if he fully shifts his attention on the Ministry of Defense. You know it's very serious ministry; we are preparing for NATO and working actively on NATO programs and he [Alasania] has much work to do," the Prime Minister said.
"Irakli is our team member, member of the coalition and the government," he added.
The PM said that he had not yet decided who would replace Alasania on the post of the First Deputy PM.
Several hours before PM's remarks, Alasania said on January 23 that Ivanishvili decided to relinquish him of his deputy PM's duties in order to allow him focus fully on the Ministry of Defense. Alasania denied having "misunderstandings" with the Prime Minister.
On January 22, before the PM's decision was made public, Alasania said in an interview with the public TV that he had "hard talks" with PM Ivanishvili few days ago. Alasania said that he discussed within his OGFD party whether to offer the GD coalition party’s candidate for the presidential elections.
“I will not hide that few days ago I had a hard talk with PM over this issue,” Alasania said. “The PM had certain concerns that these discussions were ongoing without an agreement with him. I agree fully with him that the presidential candidate should be agreed with the coalition and agreed with the coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.”