MP Koba Davitashvili said on August 2 that he was quitting the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group and planning to run in the October 27 presidential elections.
MP Davitashvili cited number of policy disagreements with the GD coalition as the reason behind his decision and stressed that acquittal of ex-defense minister Bacho Akhalaia by the court was “the final straw.”
He is the first lawmaker to quit the parliamentary majority group, as a result GD will now have 85 seats in the 150-member legislative body.
MP Davitashvili, who leads his small Party of People but was elected in the Parliament through GD’s party list, came at odds with government and other GD lawmakers for number of times in recent months. In late April GD was even mulling expelling Davitashvili from the coalition after he leveled corruption allegations against healthcare minister Davit Sergeenko, but at the time the dispute was settled.
Speaking at a news conference on August 2, MP Davitashvili said that it was “completely unacceptable” for him when Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani and some other senior figures from the GD coalition reacted on court’s verdict, acquitting Akhalaia, by saying that it was a testimony to judiciary’s independence.
The prosecutor’s office, which is under the Justice Ministry, came under fire by non-parliamentary opposition parties, and also some GD MPs, for a failure to prove its case against Akhalaia, who despite of acquittal, remains in detention because he is still facing number of other charges in separate cases.
Chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, denied allegations that the case against Akhalaia was weak and said that prosecutors would appeal the Tbilisi City Court’s not guilty verdict to higher court.
Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, said on August 1 that the court’s not guilty verdict showed “that the judiciary is independent” from prosecution and executive government. She also stressed that the process was not yet over as the prosecution was planning to appeal the verdict and added that prosecutor’s office would “double its efforts” to prove its case against Akhalai in the Court of Appeals.
“Declaring Akhalaia’s acquittal as a victory of judicial independence and democracy is completely unacceptable for me,” MP Davitashvili said and added that judiciary remains “dependent” on President Saakashvili’s UNM party.
“I believe that this verdict amounts to ridiculing those people who are still waiting for the restoration of justice,” MP Davitashvili said.
He said that it was a result of “concessions” made by the GD to UNM and a result of pursuing “cohabitation course”. MP Davitashvili specifically named GD parliamentary majority’s decision not to make jury trial into high-profile cases compulsory. He said that such a course would also lead to acquittal of UNM secretary general Vano Merabishvili, who is in pre-trial detention pending trial into multiple criminal charges.
He also criticized GD’s decision to shelve a bill imposing temporary ban on mortgage foreclosures.
“Since there are frequent disagreements between us on fundamental policy issues, I quit the parliamentary majority group and let the Georgian people settle this disagreement at the upcoming presidential elections in which I plan to run with a platform radically different from the course pursued by you [referring to GD coalition],” MP Davitashvili said.
He said that he would remain as an independent MP in the Parliament. “But I think that formation of a normal opposition within the Parliament is required, because UNM has no resource whatsoever to be a normal opposition,” he said.
MP Davitashvili said that his pre-election campaign program would be based on the need to revise GD’s policy of “cohabitation, which is unacceptable for the large part of the society.”