Confronting the President

The main character of the ongoing week is yet again the President. It hasn’t been a full three weeks since New Year and he has already been predicted to leave his post, then exposed as the lobbyist of criminals and now accused of blackmailing and mischief. This time the main accuser was the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Energy of Georgia, Kakha Kaladze who confronted the President after the latter published a public letter in which he asked the government to make the terms of the “secret” agreement, signed by Mr. Kaladze with Gazprom, public. However, there is yet another reason for the conflict between the President and Vice-Premier.

Kaladze is one of the main political figures of the Georgian Dream government. After billionaire ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, he is the second person to be entrusted to manage the human resources policy in the government. After the October 8 elections, many believed that he would take the post of Interior Minister of Georgia, though this did not happen- he went back to the Ministry of Energy, certainly no career advancement. This was followed by rumors about him running for the post of Tbilisi Major or even President of Georgia. He openly denied interest towards becoming Major, which indicates that his main goal is to become the President.

The idea that Mr. Kaladze might be aiming towards the President’s post seems quite legitimate to political analyst Gia Khukhashvili. He says that if the law about electing the President does change, the candidate for presidency will definitely be Kakha Kaladze, “There are just three or four groups in the Georgian Dream which are ready to take steps to get the high-profile posts. Kaladze is among them, and is certainly counting on his future presidency. He has been supporting MPs in the majority, brought to parliament by him, and, most importantly, he has good relations with the main manager of the party, as well as the country, Mr. Ivanishvili.”

Vice-PM Kaladze’s presidential ambitions were first revealed in the elections of 2008, when he was considered an ardent supporter of Mikheil Saakashvili. In one of his TV interviews, Kaladze mentioned that his dream was to become the President of Georgia. Nine years ago, the footballer’s dream of becoming the President was perceived with humor by the political elites. However, as it turned out, this is quite realistic today.

The main question raised after the briefing held between the Vice-PM and President about Gazprom is what chances does President Margvelashvili have in this confrontation? The answer is “none”, if the law on the election of President changes and the power shifts to Parliament. The chances of President Margvelashvili keeping his position will be clear only after the elections. Maybe this is what ex-Parliament Speaker Usupashvili was on about when he suggested the President resign and call early Presidential elections. It wasn’t hard to see that the temporary truce between Georgian Dream and the President would eventually be broken.

For two years the country witnessed squabbles, resembling a tragi-comedy, between the President and then-Prime Minister Garibashvili, and the reason for this was largely the failed distribution of powers in the Constitution. The appointment of Kvirikashvili seemed to extinguish that conflict, but everything spoke of the fact that sooner or later the fire would reignite. The only ambiguousness was regarding who would confront the President this time: the Prime Minister, or the Government.

Whether it will again be Margvelashvili winning the new fight is hard to predict, since Ivanishvili has created a ruling system in which the personas “created” by him are obliged to follow his orders but take on the responsibility for consequences themselves. Therefore, nobody knows if the billionaire really wants Mr. Kaladze to gain more power and become president, or not.

Zaza Jgarkava

19 January 2017 19:09