Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Gedevan Popkhadze, a majoritarian MP from Borjomi and Aspindza single-mandate constituency, says he intends to quit the Georgian Dream majority group citing disagreements over the ruling party decision to endorse the candidacy of Ninia Kakabadze to the Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).
Kakabadze, a journalist and civic activist, known for her criticism of the Orthodox Church, was nominated by the European Georgia minority to fill its quota in GPB’s nine-member supervisory body. The Parliament voted down her candidacy with 11 votes to 40, but the opposition MPs resubmitted her candidacy, and this time, she was approved with 55 votes to 12.
MP Gedevan Popkhadze, who serves as the deputy chairman of the Parliament’s human rights committee and who has been known for his socially conservative views, told media outlets yesterday shortly after the parliamentary vote that he did not want “to be part of the decision which elected a person who insults the Patriarch and the Orthodox Church.”
“This is absolutely unacceptable for me, and I consider that this is an outright encouragement of the reactionary groups and individuals, who are insulting the religious and moral values of others for establishing their social status,” Popkhadze said, adding that if the Georgian Dream considered it possible to support “persons like Kakabadze,” he would quit the ruling party.
Later on April 4, Popkhadze reiterated that his decision was related to the Georgian Dream’s endorsement of Ninia Kakabadze’s candidacy, and clarified that he would file for resignation from his parliamentary posts either on April 5 or next week. Popkhadze declined to provide additional details.
If official, Popkhadze will be the first lawmaker to have quit the Georgian Dream majority since the 2016 parliamentary elections. His withdrawal leaves the majority group with 115 MPs in 150-member Parliament.
Reactions in Ruling Party
Popkhadze’s announcement has met mixed reactions in the ruling party, triggering reports that other Georgian Dream lawmakers could also follow suit.
MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream faction, stressed the lawmaker’s decision was “hasty” and “wrong.” Asked whether other like-minded MPs would quit the party, Mdinaradze said he did not expect other lawmakers to make a similar “mistake,” and “quit the party on the grounds that some majority group MPs decided not to deprive the minority group lawmakers of their right to use their quota.”
MP Nukri Kantaria stressed Popkhadze’s decision was “hasty and emotional,” but added that he “completely” shared his position on Kakabadze. “The voters did not elect us for paying favors to the outgrowths of the United National Movement (implying the European Georgia party which split from UNM),” he said, adding that the endorsement of Kakabadze’s candidacy was “distancing” the party from its electorate.
MP Dimitri Khundadze hailed “the decision and the integrity” of Gedevan Popkhadze, and added that the majority lawmakers would consult with him and try to convince him that Kakabadze’s endorsement “was not a decision of the majority group [as a whole].” “I respect every decision, be it in favor or against, but the majority of the majority group has not supported the initiative,” Khundadze noted.
MP Bidzina Gegidze welcomed Popkhadze’s decision as well, and called for “an improved [decision-making] process” within the Georgian Dream majority. “Before every major decision we need to have a unified position that is well-argued, well-informed and right, and we won’t have what we received today,” he said, adding that the ruling party lawmakers would have to hold consultations for that purpose.