Where Will Georgia’s New President Live?

Georgia has a new President-elect, the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) favorite Salome Zurabishvili, and it has been said she will not be moving into the Presidential Palace, located in the Avlabari district of Tbilisi, once the outgoing President Giorgi Margvelashvili leaves.

During the pre-election campaign, Zurabishvili mentioned several times that she would not live in the Avlabari residence if she became President, noting it is a state-owned building where the country's premier or foreign ministry would be better placed than the President’s Administration.

The ruling GD has several times raised the issue of the Avlabari residence, urging Giorgi Margvelashvili to move into the Orbeliani residence on Atoneli Street, Old Tbilisi, which was prepared for him after his election in 2013.

Before his election, Margvelashvili stated that he would not take the Presidential Palace in Avlabari built by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, due to the high cost of its original construction and subsequent maintenance, which amounts to up to GEL 3 million monthly from the state budget.

He changed his mind after being elected and stated that he would not leave the Avlabari building, which resulted in a disagreement between him and the government. Zurabishvili, since the exit polls, has not officially stated where she plans to live but her election program reads the President should live in the Orbeliani residence.

“The Avlabari residence is a symbol of the State. This is why the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister should live there, or for it to be a common place for receiving foreign guests,” she stated.

The program also reads that the President's Administration must have intense communication with citizens, where gender balance should be maintained and persons with disabilities should have a representation.

There are no legal norms that can make the President change their official residence. However, GD has also been pushing the fact that the Avlabari palace will not be a place of residence for the new president.

The government has also yet to make an official comment regarding the new president’s residence, however, as Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, stated, “the President and their Administration should not cost the state as much as it has.”

Moreover, earlier this year, the Parliament Speaker and the Head of Zurabishvili’s Election Headquarters, Irakli Kobakhidze, noted that it is not necessary for the President to live in the Presidential Palace.

“The President’s Palace should be in compliance with the President’s role and function,” Kobakhidze said, adding that consultations will be held in GD regarding the issue.

“The next president should also be involved in these consultations. This is the decision that should be made on the basis of general principles," he said.

The opposition does not agree with the ruling team. They say the President’s institute is of utmost importance and should have a proper residence.

By Thea Morrison

Orbeliani Palace and Avlabari Palace. Image source: amerikiskhma.com

29 November 2018 18:16