Speculation grows over who might be PM Ivanishvili’s pick to succeed him on the post after he steps down following the presidential election with the most recent wave of rumors, swirling in the Georgian media, centering on 50-year-old healthcare minister Davit Sergeenko.
Ivanishvili himself remains tight-lipped about his choice and says he will make it public next week after consultations within the Georgian Dream coalition leadership, if of course the Sunday’s vote does not go into second round – a scenario the PM believes is almost unlikely, although opponents are not so sure.
The only important hint so far made by Ivanishvili about his pick was in an interview with Reuters, when he said: “It will be a member of the cabinet, one of the ministers, a member of our team.”
Previously, Economy Minister and Deputy PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili was also in the list of rumored potential prime ministerial candidates, but it was excluded after Ivanishvili said this week that Kvirikashvili would retain his post in cabinet in charge of economy, as well as his vice premiership. Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili is also rumored as a possible candidate.
Healthcare minister Sergeenko was frequently featuring in rumored list of potential prime ministerial candidates.
Sergeenko, a pediatric doctor, who was largely unknown to public before becoming healthcare minister after last year’s parliamentary elections, was head of Ivanishvili-funded hospital in PM’s native Sachkhere in 2006-2012.
GD presidential candidate, Giorgi Margvelashvili, who is also noncommittal about possible future PM, was full of praise for Sergeenko, although he declined to comment on healthcare minister’s rumored promotion. He told journalists on October 26: “Davit Sergeenko is an excellent healthcare minister, a person who achieved an unprecedented success in the direction of healthcare reform. Let me remind you that his [reforms] provided [state-funded health] insurance to 2 million people; he increased social allowances, pensions and he managed to do it in the most difficult period of time during [the political] cohabitation, when his programs and his reforms were constantly being targeted for the purpose of discredited.”
UNM presidential candidate, MP Davit Bakradze, criticized the process itself surrounding selecting future PM as non-transparent.
“The issue of prime ministerial candidate should be resolved very transparently,” he told journalists on October 26. “Prime ministerial candidate is not a candidate of a home nurse to be decided only by one person. I cannot make any comments concerning Sergeenko, because I do not know whether or not this candidate will be nominated.”
Presidential candidate Nino Burjanadze said: “It’s strange that new Prime Minister has not been named yet, while his deputy has already been named.”
She was referring to Ivanishvili’s remarks that Economy Minister Kvirikashvili will retain his vice premiership under the new PM. “Let’s wait and see who will be nominated as new Prime Minister. I repeat that it is regretful that Ivanishvili decided to quit politics,” Burjanadze added.
“Sergeenko might be a good doctor, a family doctor of Ivanishvili’s children, but he should not be a prime minister,” an outspoken leader of Labor Party and a presidential candidate, Shalva Natelashvili, said. “He has become a minister after being a family doctor… As if he has already revived [the healthcare system] to be now promoted as prime minister – what a nonsense; it is nothing but ridiculing the country.”