- He thanked those “opponents, who easily adjusted to new political reality and did not leave my extended hand of cooperation hanging in the air”
New PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili addresses lawmakers in Parliament chamber in Kutaisi before his cabinet won confidence vote with support of GD parliamentary majority group after midnight on December 30, 2015. Photo: government’s office
Parliament confirmed overnight on Wednesday with 86 votes to 28 Giorgi Kvirikashvili as new Prime Minister, replacing Irakli Garibashvili, who announced resignation a week earlier.
Kvirikashvili, 48, who was Foreign Minister since September, has become Georgia’s third Prime Minister since the Georgian Dream coalition came into government in late October, 2012, preceded by Bidzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Garibashvili.
The confidence vote was held after lengthy debates, which lasted past midnight.
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Opposition lawmakers from the United National Movement (UNM) and Free Democrats (FD) parties did not support the cabinet.
The only newcomer in Kvirikashvili’s cabinet is Mikheil Janelidze, 34, who has become the Foreign Minister.
Other members of the cabinet remained unchanged:
- Energy Minister and deputy PM – Kakha Kaladze;
- Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development and deputy PM – Dimitri Kumsishvili;
- Minister of Finance – Nodar Khaduri;
- Minister for Labor, Healthcare and Social Affairs – Davit Sergeenko;
- Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure – Nodar Javakhishvili;
- Minister of Justice – Tea Tsulukiani;
- Defense Minister – Tina Khidasheli
- Minister of Internal Affairs – Giorgi Mgebrishvili;
- Minister of Agriculture – Otar Danelia;
- Minister of Culture – Mikheil Giorgadze;
- Minister for IDPs – Sozar Subari;
- Minister of penitentiary system – Kakha Kakhishvili;
- Education Minister – Tamar Sanikidze;
- Minister of Environment Protection – Gigla Agulashvili;
- Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs – Tariel Khechikashvili;
- State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration – Davit Bakradze;
- State Minister for Diaspora – Gela Dumbadze
- State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality – Paata Zakareishvili
Kvirikashvili, who has spent most of his career in financial and banking sectors before becoming Economy Minister in late October 2012, was a member of Parliament in 1999-2004 with the New Rights Party; he was deputy chair of the parliamentary committee on economic policy. Kvirikashvili was director general of ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Cartu Bank in 2006-2011.
During the debates many lawmakers from the UNM and Free Democrats (FD) opposition parties were saying that replacing of Garibashvili by Kvirikashvili as PM will not change situation in the country as long as ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili remains “informal ruler.”
“We will not support the proposed cabinet, because of informal and unlimited influence of Ivanishvili over this government,” FD MP Shalva Shavgulidze said.
UNM lawmakers were telling Kvirikashvili that he won’t be an independent political figure and will have to act upon, as UNM MP Givi Targamadze put it, Ivanishvili’s “whims”.
“You said you are hired by the people, but in fact you are hired by Bidzina Ivanishvili and not by the people,” UNM MP Chiora Taktakishvili told Kvirikashvili.
“You serve the interests of Ivanishvili; you don’t care about Georgia,” UNM MP Tinatin Bokuchava told the new PM and added that his government has no plan how to overcome what she said was “economic crisis.”
Some UNM lawmakers, however, were also noting Kvirikashvili’s constructive and conciliatory rhetoric, which was especially evident compared to his predecessor Irakli Garibashvili, who was often accused of using inflammatory rhetoric against the opponents. At a meeting with opposition MPs Kvirikashvili said that his cabinet will be open to cooperation with all the groups in the Parliament.
“You offered us cooperation and it’s good if it is a genuine offer,” UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili told Kvirikashvili. “But our conversation will have a sense if we see that you are capable of taking decisions independently [from Ivanishvili].”
“Unlike your predecessor you strike constructive tone and it is welcomed,” UNM MP Giorgi Tevdoradze told Kvirikashvili. “But you made no changes in the cabinet, which I think is because [Ivanishvili] decided so.”
UNM MP Sergo Ratiani said: “Ivanishvili is playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ – Garibashvili was a bad cop.”
UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili said that compared to Garibashvili, Kvirikashvili is different and seemed cooperative, but “in substance there will be no change.”
Lawmakers from the Georgian Dream ruling coalition were criticizing opposition lawmakers from the UNM for not making focus on specific policy areas, which were discussed by ministers in details during confirmation hearings in the committees on December 28.
“It has become absolutely clear for me during these two days of hearings that Giorgi Kvirikashvili is a real political leader,” GD MP Gedevan Popkhadze said. “Our opponents will do utmost to instill hopelessness in the society, especially ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, but we should not follow their agenda.”
GD MP Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party told the new PM and cabinet members that they are political office holders and called on them to switch from being technocrats to political figures and to go out from their office and meet and communicate more frequently with people. He said it was essential for the people to get information about government’s deeds directly from cabinet members, otherwise “misinformation” will fill the gap created by lack of communication.
GD MP Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum complained that the reason behind Irakli Garibashvili’s resignation remained unclear even for him – in his resignation statement Garibashvili did not name any specific reason behind his decision.
“The official version why Garibashvili resigned is not convincing, which causes rumors. We should know why the PM resigned – it’s not about Garibashvili personally, it’s about the Prime Minister institutionally. The version that a person on the peak of career should be stepping down is not convincing; neither it is right. This is somewhat even dangerous,” MP Gubaz Sanikidze said.
A senior GD MP Manana Kobakhidze, who is vice-speaker of the Parliament, responded that Garibashvili spoke about the reasons “absolutely clearly” by saying that holding office was not a goal in itself for him.
“Asking such questions by our own team members here in this chamber will cause even more misunderstanding,” MP Kobakhidze told her fellow GD lawmaker Sanikidze.
‘New Political Reality’
In his closing remarks, PM Kvirikashvili thanked the GD ruling coalition and then added: “I also want to thank especially those opponents, who easily adjusted to new political reality and did not leave my extended hand of cooperation hanging in the air.”
“I hope very much that after some time others will also adjust to new political reality,” he added.
“Now I am looking forward to launching implementation of those good deeds and projects we have been discussing for past two days. There will be polemic, but I hope very much that there won’t be hysteria and instead there will be constructive discussions,” Kvirikashvili said.
“We are a small country, small society. We should not let this society to be split and to waste our energy on proving each other which one of us is better. There should one party in Georgia, which is our homeland. It is my desire to build such country and every person who is willing to bring warmth and light in this house should be allowed to do so. Thank you all – both who support and who do not support us,” Kvirikashvili said.
After winning confidence vote from the Parliament, the new PM told journalists: “There were attempts to change our constructive, friendly and cooperative tone. We did not yield to those attempts and kept on the same tone in which we are going to continue political life.”
“I think we should establish sense of calm and stability in the country. It will be the cornerstone of our [government] along with economic development,” Kvirikashvili added.