Belgium (Brussels Morning), Iraki Garibashvili resigns from the post of Prime Minister of Georgia, and Irakli Kobakhidze takes his place. In the national Georgian media change in the government apparatus is presented as a historic decision, nevertheless, the opposition sees it as a facade transformation.
Is it an actual change or just a “facade” transformation?
From the end of “Saakashvili’s era” in 2013, the downfall of the prosperity era began as Georgian politics started to go in a more right-wing direction. In 2012 Bidzina Ivanishvili became a Prime Minister of Georgia and year later will be replaced by his hand-picked successor, Iraki Garibashvili. Bidzina Ivanishvili is not just a Georgian politician, but an oligarch, who is considered to be one of the richest people in the world and the wealthiest person in Georgia. He is a founder of the “Georgian Dream- Democratic Georgia” party, which is staying for social democracy, social market economy, and social conservatism, however, its politics is different from Mikheil Saakashvili’s “United National Movement” party.
Saakashvili, during his several years in office, was able to raise from ruined relations with the European Union and especially with the United States, so that Georgia for more than a decade was one of the most pro-West and pro-European countries in the region. Georgia was just one step from joining the European Union and NATO as it was meeting almost all of the conditions to do that. However, with the end of the Saakashvili era began the demolition of pro-EU foreign policy and good relations both with the US and the EU.
The “Georgian Dream” party is more focused on developing itself into a more powerful and wealthy than into a more democratic faction. Its founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has very close ties with Russia as he was doing his business in Moscow and, before returning to Georgia, was in a group of influential Russian bankers, who supported the re-election of Boris Yeltsin. In 2013, when Bidzina Ivanishvili stepped down as prime minister in favor of Iraki Garibasvili, he actually continued to rule behind the scenes.
When the popularity of the “Georgian Dream” started to fall, it began to persecute representatives of the opposition. In 2014 main opposition leader and a former close ally of the former president Mikheil Saakashvili, Giorgi Ugulava, was detained for money laundering, but the opposition called the arrest politically motivated. Nearly at the same time, Mikheil Saakashvili was charged with organizing an assault in 2005 against one of his political opponents.
The results of the popularity polls didn’t improve and Iraki Garibashvili decided to resign in favour of his foreign minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Consequently, in 2016 “Georgian Dream” won the election. However, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-stay-in-power of the “Georgian Dream” Party, the anti-government protests took place in Georgia and were suppressed by force. As a result, the 2020 election victory of the “Georgian Dream” was not recognized by the opposition, which led to the beginning of the political crisis in the country.
As Mikheil Saakashvili at that time was serving as the governor of the Odesa Region in Ukraine and was convicted by the Georgian government of other criminal cases, his return to Georgian meant an immediate arrest. “Georgian Dream” struggling with unpopularity in the country started the persecution of opposition leaders all over again. This time it was Nika Melia, who was serving as the only opposition candidate in the 2020 election and later the leader of the “United National Movement” party. Melia’s pre-trial detention caused the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who was replaced by Iraki Garibashvili. Nika Melia later was released from detention.
The 2024 resignation of Iraki Garibashvili was not something unexpected as when he took office in 2021 it was already his second term. Irakli Kobakhidze, who is replacing Garibashvili in his post, is not a representative of the opposition party, he comes from the same “Georgian Dream” party. Moreover, before taking the post of the Prime Minister of Georgia, he was serving as the chairman of the “Georgian Dream”. Iraki Kobakhidze accused Western countries of attempting to push Georgia into war with Russia, claiming that a “Global War Party” was intent on doing so. ‘God forbid, but if we theoretically allowed that war to erupt in Georgia by the end of December, of course, in that case, we would have [EU] candidacy status guaranteed. However, perhaps […] it’s not worth attaining such status this way’, was said by Kobakhidze in 2022.
Taking these words into consideration, it is possible to say that Georgia’s politics will probably not change its direction even despite Georgia’s candidate status to the European Union that was granted recently. Furthermore, former president, now imprisoned Mikheil Saakashvili called the change of prime minister “another mockery” of the Georgian people, which does not change anything. “The sole purpose of this gang is to further enrich Bidzina and consolidate power. They don’t care about the fate of people at all,” Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page.
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