Observers say that the death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who was one of the major architects of the country's policy, will trigger shifts in the Georgian political life. Below are some comments by analysts and politicians, who spoke to Civil Georgia about the possible political consequences.
Ghia Nodia, political analyst
I do not think that this fact will change the political course in its entirity, however we should anticipate speficic reshuffles in the executive, in the government and the Parliament, where the members of Zhvania's team have suddenly become an informal grouping [with no official backing].
The most critical element is in Zhvania's absence, as he somehow balanced the [political] situation [in the government]. Two informal groups were distinguishable in the present authorities – radicals and moderates; this had a balancing effect on the decisions made by the authorities and, in my opinion, represented a strength rather than a weakness, especially against the current political background wherein there is no influential opposition in the country. Unfortunately, this balance will [now] be weakened.
Any changes in the authorities will be natural, since the change of any leader, and it is beyond any doubt that Zhvania was a political leader, entails staff changes.
Probably, his successor is among the present ministers; however he will not be as strong a figure as Zhvania was.
Davit Usupashvili, legal expert and a leading civil society activist
Even if Zhvania had stepped down at his own with, this would have triggered great changes in the internal political life of Georgia; now, after his death, changes are unavoidable.
Zhvania's death is one of the worst-case scenarios that might have happened for the country. This further complicates the situation, especially as the country has entered the stage of dynamic processes, with many initiatives [proposed] and numerous problems.
The government and its fate are constitutionally bound to the Prime Minister. I do not think that the death of Zurab Zhvania, who was agreeably not an ordinary played in Georgian politics, will trigger any fundamental changes. However, it is quite clear that specific [personnel and political] changes will still take place.
The Saakashvili-Zhvania tandem worked well in the executive authorities. This [format of relationship] is reflected in the [current] constitutional model as well. From this point of view, selecting a new person [to fit this constitutional] model will not be so easy.
The President has seven days to select a new Prime Minister. Lets’ wait for his choice.
As for the political spectrum, the members of the so-called Zhvania’s political team will have to become the members of the National Movement, not only formally [as many did previously] but also de facto. I doubt that any member of his [Zhvania's] team would manage to replace him [as a leader of the political faction].
Ia Antadze, political analyst
It is very difficult to make any forecasts currently, but I can say that politics will probably become more concentrated.
The government’s positions and decisions were more balanced [with Zhvania], since disputes used to take place in the decision making process between the radical and moderate parts of the authorities.
The future would allow us to see better the role which Zurab Zhvania had in Georgia’s political life. It will be also reflected in how Saakashvili manages to make balanced decisions.
MP Davit Berdzenishvili, opposition Republican Party
The strange and sudden death of this political figurehead of our generation triggers feelings that even the government members are not protected from [accidents]. I don’t think that this accident will change our government’s general political course drastically. I also don’t think it will trigger serious internal problems for Georgia.
But I am sure this fact will create lots of problems for Saakashvili’s administration, at least initially.
MP Pikria Chikhradze, the New Rights-Industrialist opposition coalition
The death of Zurab Zhvania, which is personally very painful for me, as well as the blast in Gori [on February 1, which killed three and injured 27 people], creates a sense of instability in the country.
It is most likely that Zurab Zhvania’s death will have a serious impact on the country’s political life. Zhvania was a person who was in charge of the political life [of the country] for a long time; he was an extremely influential figure. Roots of his influence were spread throughout the government, media and non-governmental sector as well.
Everybody had a feeling that Zhvania’s personality had a stabilizing and balancing role in the government and when the government lacks this kind of force, this will have an impact on entire country.
His death has already triggered changes, because this was followed by the automatic resignation of the entire cabinet.
I think those persons in the cabinet which were regarded as his [Zurab Zhvania] closest allies will be replaced [by others] soon. But I don’t think that that staff changes will follow among the lower level officials.
As for Zhvania’s replacement at the Prime Minister’s position, I don’t have any information about this from sources close to the government, as I am in the opposition; I only know what the Georgian media speculates about. And these speculations mainly concern Irakli Okruashvili [the Defense Minister].
I think it will be better if a person with less political ambition becomes the new Prime Minister.