Choosing Sides: More Changes in the Georgian Parliament

Despite the ‘dead season’ in Parliament, the factions have declared the transfer season open. Following on from the shifts in the governmental coalition, the rotation process now appears to have started in the opposition as well with four MPs leaving the United National Movement (UNM) this week. After Zurab Japaridze, Pavle Kublashvili, Giorgi Meladze and Goga Khachidze withdrew from the UNM, a summer transfer was announced on two MP votes in Parliament. This is the number of votes that the four MPs need in order to form a new faction in Parliament and, as they say, attack the Georgian Dream majority with new vigor.

Unlike sports, hunting for ‘stars’ is slightly different in the Georgian Parliament. There, moving from one team to another does not happen at once and mostly depends on who has what influence on this or that political process. As the Georgian media was fast to spread: former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, currently imprisoned, stands behind the four recent leavers and plans on starting his own independent political game.

Editor of newspaper “Kronika+” Eliso Kiladze claims that Vano Merabishvili’s team needs MPs in Parliament who will serve their interests: “MP Kakha Okriashvili and ex-governor Tsezar Chocheli plan to establish a new political party. These people are associated with UNM member and Secretary General of the party, Vano Merabishvili. I do not exclude that the four MPs who left the UNM party are cooperating with the new party that is associated with Merabishvili,” Kiladze said.

The four ex-UNM MPs have not hidden the fact that they plan to form a new party and do not intend to cooperate with other parties. However, the first thing they need to do is to convince two more MPs to join them in order to form a new faction. Former UNM MP Goga Khachidze says that the four have already selected candidates and will soon make those names public. “We will form a faction. We will see who joins us; we cannot reveal it now. Of course, we are in consultation with the relevant groups of MPs. There are thick dividing lines related to the country’s foreign policy orientation. This is a natural political process. When you have a faction, there are more opportunities in parliamentary work as well, generally, in terms of the tribune. It is essential that when you are a politician, you have to make sure to expand and create certain opportunities,” Khachidze said.

The chairman of the United National Movement, as of Georgia Today going to print, had not yet responded to the latest events; though other ‘faces’ of the UNM had commented on the decision of the four leavers. If we judge from the photos of the former president taken in Warsaw at the UEFA finals posted on social networks, there is an impression that Saakashvili where these wandering free agents will end up, unlike other ‘stars’ of UNM who call the withdrawal of the four from the party irresponsible and infantile. Due to the situation, the unusual silence of Saakashvili can be even justified and, as MP Nadirashvili said, the final result of this ado might be instead the smiling faces of Prime Minister Garibashvili’s government.

This way or that, following the withdrawal of the four from the UNM party, another reality is created in the oppositional wing of the parliament. And this will create a precondition for establishing a large pro-western coalition within Parliament.

Political scientist Khatuna Lagazidze discussed the possible reasons of the withdrawal of the four former UNM members from the party in an interview with the newspaper “Rezonansi” during which she stated that the MPs had expressed the desire to join a pro-western coalition to run in the next parliamentary elections. “I think preparations for creating a pro-western center for the upcoming parliamentary elections are underway. In this regard, it is clear that the United National Movement cannot become a member of the pro-western coalition despite their distinct pro-western position, as neither Alasania nor the Republicans will want to make a coalition with them- they (UNM) are surrounded by a stigma that would ruin any party,” Lagazidze said.

It is truly hard to imagine leaving one pro-western party and joining another and fighting for pro-western values, especially when you hold the position of the Executive Secretary within that party. The hot topic is Zurab Japaridze, who was considered one of the most promising UNM politicians, based on all public opinion polls.

The demarche of the four, one and a half years before the elections, has weakened the UNM but has not strengthened either Burjanadze or Ivanishvili as it will confirm the idea to the majority of Georgian voters that the government can do nothing to the UNM – at the Georgian Dream “there is a disorder and they can do nothing”. This is why Misha [Saakashvili] and the United National Movement at least proved to everyone, starting from the ‘unforgettable revolution,’ that they know what they want!

Zaza Jgharkava

28 May 2015 22:58