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At Confirmation Hearings, PM-Designate Calls for End to ‘Polarization’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 29 Dec.'15 / 02:44

During meetings with opposition lawmakers at confirmation hearings, PM-designate Giorgi Kvirikashvili has called for putting an end to political polarization and vowed that his cabinet will be much more open to cooperation with all the groups in the Parliament.

He voiced the similar calls when meeting lawmakers from Georgian Dream ruling coalition, telling them it’s the duty of the ruling political force to offer cooperation to opposition.

“It is my huge desire to put an end to confrontation and polarization existing in the society; it’s like we have turned into actors in a very undesirable stage show,” he said during hour and a half-long meeting with lawmakers from opposition Free Democrats party on December 28.

Later on the same day he faced for more than two hours questioning from the United National Movement (UNM) parliamentary minority group.

During the meetings with both UNM and FD opposition MPs, Kvirikashvili, who is set to be confirmed as PM on December 29, was obviously trying to strike a conciliatory tone, which was in stark contrast from his predecessor, Irakli Garibashvili, who was often accused of using inflammatory rhetoric against the opponents, especially against the formerly ruling UNM party.

Although during the meeting with UNM, some MPs and Kvirikashvili briefly traded barbs, in overall the hearing was different from meetings of previous PM Irakli Garibashvili with opposition lawmakers, whose confirmation hearings were usually dominated by confrontational rhetoric and mutual accusations.

On a few occasions, especially when the debate with opposition lawmakers was turning heated, the PM-designate was calling on the UNM MPs to be “self-critical” while leveling, as he said, groundless allegations against the incumbent ruling political force, and to recall, as he put it, “authoritarian” style of rule and excessive use of force by the police against demonstrators when UNM was in power. After such exchanges Kvirikashvili, however, was also saying that he was in no way inclined towards such tone and he was calling on opponents for “constructive” discussions.
 
“Despite of your often unfair stance, our government is ready to cooperate constructively with you,” Kvirikashvili told UNM lawmakers.

When he was asked about UNM’s calls for de-criminalizing economic crimes, Kvirikashvili responded that he’s ready to meet with opposition MPs to discuss the proposal and called on the relevant state agencies to “take it constructively.”

UNM MP Mikheil Matchavariani said that unlike other ministers, Kvirikashvili has never had “a problem of having a communication with the opposition.”

Late on Monday evening when Kvirikashvili also met lawmakers from the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group, GD MP Nukri Kantaria asked the PM-designate if he really thought that it was possible to cooperate constructively with the UNM and suggested that it was just a “waste of time”. At the same meeting another GD MP Giorgi Kavtaradze called UNM “destructive” and said that its “demagoguery” should be curbed.

“I don’t think that it’s a waste of time,” Kvirikashvili responded. “Despite of that destructive [stance], as representatives of the ruling political force it is our duty to permanently voice such proposals [for cooperation] and of course it should not be a gesture politics.”

“We are not in the opposition, we are in the government and we are obliged to try hard and find even a slightest chance for cooperation and I hope that as a result of these proposals it will be at least possible to somehow change the existing atmosphere in the country.”

“We should try to somehow defuse political polarization through our good deeds, as well as through more active work with the public and media; we should be the ones who set agenda through better communicating achievements done over the past three years with the public… We should be the messengers of these positive deeds and we should focus less on negative – that’s my huge desire,” Kvirikashvili said.

He also said that during debates with UNM lawmakers he “failed to restrain myself for couple of times”.

“I think it’s better to show maximum restraint in order to calm situation down and to concentrate on already done deeds, as well as on what remains to be done,” Kvirikashvili said.

He also said that it’s “regrettable” and “surprising” to hear groundless allegations from UNM MPs in the condition when they “absolutely have no self-criticism.”

“But I repeat that we should respond with positive deeds and all the allegations leveled against us should be answered even if those allegations are voiced by those people, who really don’t have the moral right to voice such allegations,” Kvirikashvili told GD parliamentary majority MPs.

During the meeting with the PM-designate UNM lawmaker were reiterating their position that replacing PM will not change the situation as long as ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili remains “informal ruler”.

“A real ruler [referring to Ivanishvili] should be standing now at that rostrum instead of you,” a senior UNM lawmaker Giorgi Gabashvili told PM-designate Kvirikashvili. “That’s him who decided to sack Garibashvili and to appoint you as new PM.”

Another UNM lawmaker Irma Nadirashvili told Kvirikashvili that the cabinet is “Cartu Bank government”, referring to Ivanishvili’s bank where Kvirikashvili was director general in 2006-2011; economy minister Dimitri Kumsishvili was Cartu Bank’s deputy general director in 1999-2011.
 
Kvirikashvili responded by telling UNM lawmakers: “I have nominated as foreign minister Mikheil Janelidze, who was deputy economy minister when you were in government, and who maintained the same position when I became the economy minister [in late October 2012], whom I then appointed as first deputy foreign minister [when Kvirikashvili became Foreign Minister in September 2015]. Let’s ask Mr Janelidze if he ever had any links to Cartu Bank; I don’t think so.”

“That’s my response about what is my approach while selecting candidates for various positions,” he added.

When some UNM lawmakers criticized government’s foreign policy, specifically towards Russia, Kvirikashvili responded: “Georgia is absolutely consistent in its foreign policy course.”

“It involves unwavering course towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Full European integration with an eventual goal of EU membership, as well as NATO membership is our top priority,” he said.

“We are doing everything for this purpose, including mitigating risks on this path,” Kvirikashvili said. “Our pragmatic approach towards Russia is first and foremost a mean for mitigating risks in order to prevent threats to our main foreign policy course.”

“Our strategy is to position Georgia on the international arena as European country, which is open for European and Asian investments, but we should be not just a link between Europe and Asia, but the European state and a partner for Europe, which is a link between Europe and Asia,” Kvirikashvili said.

He also said that he’s “concerned over increased Russian propaganda” in Georgia.

At the meeting with lawmakers from Free Democrats, MP Nino Goguadze asked the PM-designate if he will “respect” the institute of presidency and participate in sessions of President’s National Security Council, which were mostly snubbed by the previous PM Garibashvili. The same MP also asked if he supports “campaign to remove” the President from the glass-dome presidential palace in Avlabari in Tbilisi. Ex-PM Ivanishvili and then many GD politicians too have criticized for number of times President Margvelashvili for using this presidential palace, built during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency, calling on him to leave it and move to a smaller residence.
 
“I respect the institute of presidency; I will definitely attend, if physically capable, session of the National Security Council when it is held,” Kvirikashvili responded. “As far as ‘campaign of removal’ is concerned – I do not know what campaign you are speaking about. Individual politicians have the right to make such statements. It is a matter of taste whether I would have taken the same decision if I were the President [to use this palace] – I would have probably reckoned more with the political team’s [opinion]; the President is in his residence and this issue should not be raised by the government.”

Leader of Free Democrats party, ex-defense minister Irakli Alasania, said recently while commenting on Kvirikashvili’s nomination as next PM that while this decision was taken by “informal ruler” Ivanishvili, it may still have “positive” results as he believes that Kvirikashvili will be able to secure better conditions in the lead up to the next year’s parliamentary elections than it would have been under Garibashvili’s premiership.

Parliament will continue debates on new prime ministerial nomination and his cabinet, which includes only one new member – foreign minister-designate Mikheil Janelidze, on December 29, followed by vote expected on the same day. Support of at least 76 MPs is required for the cabinet to win the confidence vote.

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