Emerging Europe has recently published an article by journalist Christian Mamo in response to former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s return to politics, entitled ‘Georgian Politics Set for Shake Up as Former PM Launches New Party.’
“Georgian politics looks set for its biggest shake up in a decade after former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia announces the launch of a new party, one that has already attracted defectors from the ruling Georgian Dream,” notes the author of the article, adding that Gakharia served as prime minister from September 2019 until February this year, when he resigned over the ruling party’s treatment of an opposition politician, Nika Melia.
“At the time, Gakharia said that he had no intention of leaving politics, and last weekend delivered on his word, creating a new party he says will “unite” the politically fractured country.
“Today we unite for Georgia but against no one,” said Gakharia at For Georgia’s launch. “Our team will be actively involved in the political process, and I emphasize once again, we are against no one,” reads the article.
Regarding the rumors about Gakharia and his team being “controlled opposition” to the ruling party Georgian Dream, the author recalls that in 2017, Gakharia was made minister of the interior. During his spell at the ministry police raided several popular nightclubs in Tbilisi, in an ostensibly anti-narcotics operation. However, the raids yielded much criticism from the public, widespread protests followed, and the ministry faced accusations that they were politically motivated.
“In 2019, in what has become known as “Gavrilov’s night”, there were more protests after a visiting Russian MP was allowed to make a speech while seated in the chair of the speaker of Georgia’s parliament.
“Gakharia was still interior minister at the time, and ordered the police to break up the demonstration. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. At least two people experienced eye injuries and loss of vision due to the use of rubber bullets.
“However, a poll conducted by the National Democratic Institute in September 2019 found that while 43% of Georgians thought the government responsible for use of “excessive force” in the crackdown, only 9% blamed Gakharia personally.
“Furthermore, a poll from this February carried out by the International Republican Institute found that Gakharia was the most popular politician in the country.
“The timing of Gakharia’s formation of a new party is not a coincidence. Part of the European Council-brokered deal between the rival Georgian parties stipulates that if Georgian Dream wins less than 43% of proportional votes in this autumn’s local elections, a snap parliamentary election will be held.
“According to one Georgian newspaper, an internal survey conducted by Georgian Dream found that the ruling party, at the moment, only expects to win around 20% of the votes in the local election, well under the threshold needed to avoid a parliamentary election.
“This has led many to believe that For Georgia is “controlled opposition” for Georgian Dream. However, there are also political commentators who believe that Gakharia and his party will join the opposition bloc. For Georgia has already submitted a candidate for mayor of Tbilisi.
“Georgian Dream stooge or not, Gakharia looks set to be a key player in Georgian politics in the coming months,” the author concludes.