Screengrab from video footage showing PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili (left) and Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili of the Republican Party speak with journalists after a meeting on March 31, 2016.
Georgian Dream ruling coalition member parties will run in the October, 2016 parliamentary elections separately and not under the joint ticket, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on March 31.
Kvirikashvili spoke after meeting with one of the leaders of the Republican Party, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, which came shortly after one of the members of the five-party GD coalition, Republican Party announced about intention to run in the upcoming elections independently. Usupashvili said that this decision of the Republican Party also stems from the desire of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG), the largest party within the GD coalition, to run separately in the elections.
“This decision does not automatically imply Republican Party’s immediate withdrawal from the parliamentary majority group, government and majority groups in local councils [Sakrebulos in the regions],” the party said in a statement on March 31.
It said that decision whether to leave or stay in the coalition government before the elections will only depend on the Republican Party’s own political agenda and on the decision of PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Currently three Republicans hold cabinet posts – Tina Khidasheli, the Defense Minister; Gigla Agulashvili, the Minister of Environment Protection, and Paata Zakareishvili, the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality.
Shortly after the Republicans’ announcement, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who is set to become chairman of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG), the largest party within the GD ruling coalition, met Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili of the Republican Party.
After the meeting PM Kvirikashvili said he intends no cabinet reshuffle for now and the ministers from the Republican Party will retain their posts. He said “stability of the government, regardless of party affiliations, is very important” and the cabinet “at this stage” will continue working in its current form.
“We will try to continue our work in this mode before the elections,” PM Kvirikashvili said. “It will also largely depend on how successful the efforts will be to continue relations between the parties in a normal mode. The political agenda does not dictate us in any way to carry out any reshuffle in the cabinet.”
In the Parliament, Republicans hold several key posts – Davit Usupashvili, one of the leaders of the Republican Party, is Parliament Speaker; two Republicans – MP Vakhtang Khmaladze and MP Levan Berdzenishvili, chair parliamentary committees for legal affairs and European integration, respectively.
The Republican Party has 10 lawmakers, who now formally are part of the 88-member GD parliamentary majority group. Even if Republicans quit the majority group, the GD ruling coalition will still retain majority in the 150-seat Parliament with 78 lawmakers.
The Republican Party said that its cabinet members will continue under the leadership of the PM “implementing government’s program confirmed by the Parliament.” But in the legislative body, it said, the Republicans “will be guided by the priorities of the party”. It also did not rule out to be on the same page with rest of the GD parliamentary majority group on “pre-agreed issues.” There have been cases previously when the Republicans opted not to vote in the parliament in line with rest of the GD majority group.
The Republican Party also said in its statement that the decision whether to leave the cabinet or not before the elections will in no way depend on “coordinated or accidentally coincident ultimatums that have been coming from the occupying country [Russia], local Stalinists, anti-NATOists, and video blackmailers.”
Under “ultimatums from the occupying country” the reference is apparently made to remarks of Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, who said on March 16 that Moscow was refraining from responding to “anti-Russian rhetoric” of some senior Georgian officials, among them Defense Minister Khidasheli, but “our patience is not limitless”.
By “Stalinists, anti-NATOists” the Republican Party was referring to MP Gogi Topadze, one of the leaders of the Industrialists Party, a member of the GD coalition. The reference in this context was apparently also made to some other GD lawmakers. GDDG, the largest party within the coalition, itself is an eclectic entity with some of its lawmakers sympathizing more with Topadze when this latter was engaged in confrontation with the Republican Party leaders in February.
By “video blackmailers” the reference was made to those behind the release of sex tapes, purportedly showing politicians. A new such tape, purportedly showing one of the politicians, was uploaded and distributed online on March 31.
Chairperson of the Republican Party, Khatuna Samnidze, said on March 31 that the party took its decision to run independently in the elections at a meeting of its main governing body on March 27, but delayed its announcement upon the PM’s request.
PM Kvirikashvili said that consultations about the plans for upcoming elections have been ongoing actively recently within the GD coalition.
“We think that it is an acceptable form if the Georgian Dream-[Democratic Georgia party] runs in the elections separately and a relevant statement was also made by the Republican Party,” MP Kvirikashvili said.
“It is now early to speak about the possible forms of cooperation in the post-election period. Georgian voters should decide… It is normal if we run in the elections independently and form coalitions after the elections. There was different reality in 2012 [when the GD coalition ran under the joint ticket] and now we have different situation... Today electoral process is much more transparent and democratic so we think that it is a normal decision and there is nothing special in it,” the PM said.
Standing beside PM Kvirikashvili, Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili told journalists that he “fully agrees” with PM’s remarks.
He said that the Republican Party’s decision was a result of consultations with other coalition leaders.
“It was clear for us that the priority of the Georgian Dream-[Democratic Georgia] party is to run separately in the upcoming elections,” Usupashvili said. “We accept this reality and challenge, which is normal for a multi-party political system… To some extent this is also a novelty in the Georgian political life. Many ask how we should manage to be partners and competitors at the same time – that’s how it works; the European democracy is unimaginable otherwise.”
“As we have clearly stated in our statement, with its actions the Republican Party will in no way damage the country’s stability, will not cause question marks over vectors of the country’s development – there should be not a single question mark about stability in the country. That’s my answer to those critics who are telling us why we are not immediately going into opposition – we are not doing this because we [GD coalition] assumed responsibility together and we realize very well those difficulties which will be caused in case we quit the cabinet and the majority,” Usupashvili said.
“Life goes on. There is no reason whatsoever to be concerned about stability of country’s governance and its [foreign policy] vectors,” he said.
“Up until now the Republican Party and the Georgian Dream-[Democratic Georgia] party were in partnership mode, now we are moving into partnership-competition mode,” Usupashvili added.
The Republican Party said in its statement that its further steps and plans within the cabinet will also depend on PM Kvirikashvili’s announced intention to achieve “renewal” of the GDDG party.
“We may manage to carry burden of responsibility within the coalition government for some time along with PM Kvirikashvili and the team acting in line with his vision,” it said, but the party also added that it won’t be possible if political agenda continues to be set by public statements of individual politicians who are not bound by coalition principles – a reference was apparently made to those remarks of some GD lawmakers, which are not in line with government’s declared policies.