Republicans to Leave Georgian Dream, Will Run Independently

TBILISI – The Republicans, a key faction in the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, announced Thursday that it plans to officially withdraw from the embattled incumbent party prior to elections in October and run on its own ticket.

Party Chairwoman Khatuna Samnidze announced the decision following a lengthy debate within the Republican leadership over the future path of the party.

A statement released by Samnidze’s office denied reports of a major rift in the coalition, specifically with the dominant Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia Party and its de facto leader, eccentric billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The statement said the party’s motivation for leaving the coalition – whose poll numbers have plummeted to the mid-teens in the last year – is fueled solely by a desire to pursue their own national agenda.

“Our decision to leave the coalition is due to our own political agenda and not because of third-party outsiders, local Stalinists, anti-NATO factions or those who use private videos as blackmail,” the party’s statement read.

The departure of the Georgian Dream’s second largest faction could complicate the ruling party’s chances at re-election in the upcoming election. Recent polls have shown widespread discontent with the incumbents due to their poor handling of Georgia’s faltering economy and a lack of policy cohesion amongst its disparate members.

The coalition has been the dominant political force in the country since it defeated former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement in the 2012 elections.

The Republicans are a self-described pro-European, center-right party that champions a liberal market economy and close integration with Western institutions like NATO and the EU.

Comprising a wide spectrum of disparate political movements the Georgian Dream coalition includes pro-Western, reformist liberals and xenophobic nationalists as well as pro-Russian statists.

In her statement Thursday, Samnidze said her party would continue to take part in the Georgian Dream’s legislative agenda until the party formally withdraws from the coalition ahead of the election cycle.

By Nicholas Waller

01 April 2016 11:45