(UPDATE: adds PM Garibashvili’s comments in last three paragraphs)
After losing majority of seats in a local legislative body of Adjara Autonomous Republic, Georgian Dream ruling coalition suffered further setback on February 20 after two of its members broke ranks and together with UNM members voted in favor of sacking vice speaker and chairman of one of the committees.
Chairman of the Supreme Council of Adjara, Avtandil Beridze of the GD coalition, described situation in the local legislative body as “kind of a political crisis”, predicting that he might be the next to lose the post.
Originally, when Adjara’s Supreme Council was elected in October 2012, seats in 21-member local legislative body were divided between 13 members of six-party GD ruling coalition and 8 members of opposition UNM party.
After Irakli Alasania’s Free Democrats (FD) quit GD in November, two FD members of Adjara’s Supreme Council also quit, leaving GD with 11 seats – enough to take key decisions without support of opposition members of the council.
But in early February, when chairperson of human rights committee in the Supreme Council, Medea Vasadze, also quit GD, the coalition was left with 10 members, one short of clear majority.
Earlier this week, eight members of the Supreme Council from opposition UNM party initiated procedures for sacking of GD’s Davit Batsikadze from the post of vice speaker and GD’s Alexandre Chitishvili from the post of Supreme Council’s committee for financial and economic issues, accusing them of mismanagement and failing to perform their duties.
On February 20 when the initiative was put on vote, two FD members of the council refused to take part in a vote, but the proposal was still endorsed with 11 votes as a result of support of all eight UNM members, as well as ex-GD member Medea Vasadze and two current members of GD, Jemal Putkaradze and Svetlana Kudba. After the vote some of the GD members said that the ruling coalition should now consider sacking Putkaradze and Kudba from GD as they broke ranks with the coalition.
“This decision speaks about the revenge of the United National Movement,” Avtandil Beridze, chairman of the Supreme Council, said after the vote, adding that it was “kind of a political crisis” in Adjara and he might be the next to be voted out from his post.
During discussions before the vote at the session of Supreme Council on February 20, ex-member of GD Medea Vasadze called vice speaker of the council Davit Batsikadze “liar” and “coward”, accusing him of using his official powers for his construction business interests.
Batsikadze was calling Vasadze “revanchist”, who was acting in cooperation with UNM. He was also accusing member of the Georgian Parliament Murman Dumbadze of being behind this process.
MP Dumbadze, vice speaker of the Georgian Parliament elected from Adjara’s Batumi single-mandate constituency, was sacked from the GD coalition after being accused of “meddling” in affairs of local authorities in Adjara Autonomous Republic in September, when local branch of GD in Adjara was first hit by major infighting.
MP Dumbadze, who was in Batumi on February 20, following developments in the Supreme Council on the ground, welcomed decision to sack Batsikadze and Chitishvili, and said that Supreme Council chairman Avtandil Beridze should be the next to lose his post.
After the vote on February 20, GD member of Supreme Council, Akaki Dzneladze, said at the session: “No one is a loser with this process today, but the winner is UNM. Georgian Dream, however, will be the winner tomorrow.”
UNM member of Supreme Council Ekaterine Targamadze responded that “no one is a winner or loser.” “Our goal should be to make population of the region winner,” she said, adding that UNM members would not seek any of the posts in the Supreme Council and their initiative to replace vice speaker and committee chair was driven by desire to improve Supreme Council’s oversight over the local authorities and not by attempts to take senior posts in the local legislative body.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who chairs Georgian Dream coalition, told reporters on February 21 that reaction on “traitorous” action of two or three members of Georgian Dream in Adjara’s Supreme Council will be “very strict.”
“This is a direct provocation, unfortunately, staged by former members of our team – unfortunately, they made a deal with the UNM members, but nothing special will happen there; the situation is under control,” PM Garibashvili said.
“The fact that two or three lawmakers traitorously quit our team and made a deal with the National Movement – an absolutely discredited movement, it is their choice, but we will have a very strict reaction on it,” he said.