Georgia Is To Have Fifth Cabinet Under Kingmaker Ivanashvilli

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 6 September 2019
Georgia Is To Have Fifth Cabinet Under Kingmaker Ivanashvilli

After Georgia’s current kingmaker has made up his mind to reshuffle the government and designate the heavy-handed Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia as the prime minister of the tiny South Caucasus nation. He is soon to face parliamentarians to get a vote of confidence to run the Georgian Dreams’ fifth cabinet.

The premier designate is the former interior minister whose heavy-handed approach to the summer 2019 protests would not be easily forgotten by the general public. The ruling party with the proposed reshuffle has effectively launched its campaign ahead of the 2020 parliamentary polls.

Pundits believe the strengthening power bloc in the cabinet is aimed at avoiding destabilization in the run up to the election. Gakharia, together with Interior Minister-designate Vakhtang Gomelauri, who served as head of the State Security Service, and hardliner, ex-PM Irakli Gharibashvili as defence minister, are being viewed as politicians more inclined to coercion.

On September 8 the Georgian parliament is expected to give a mandate to ex-Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia to run the government. If endorsed, Gakharia will be the party's fifth prime minister in seven years. Georgian Dream says the high frequency turnover at the helm of the government is a sign of a dynamic democracy.

Critics, however, argue the parade of prime ministers reinforces the popular belief that regardless of who holds the post of prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili is the man who has the final say.

Vitaly Arkov, head of the information-analytical portal PolitRus, in an interview commented on Georgian-Russian relations, as well as the resignation of the Georgian prime minister.

Asked to comment on the current state of the Georgian-Russian relations after the Georgian prime minister resigned, he said.

Georgia’s foreign policy after the resignation of Bidzina Ivanishvili from the post of prime minister is not determined by the president of the country, nor the prime minister, nor even the speaker of parliament.

Although formally, present-day Georgia is a parliamentary republic and all key political decisions are made by Bidzina Ivanishvili and a group of people whose interests he also represents, continuing to de facto lead Georgia. These persons live both in Georgia itself, as well as in Russia, Turkey, the European Union, the USA and the Middle East.

It is important to note that not all of them are Georgians by nationality. In other words, the Georgian Dream is not a coalition of political parties and movements, but a coalition of interests and groups.

As for the people who hold the posts of the prime minister, speaker of the parliament and president of Georgia, in terms of decision-making on foreign policy, they are, to put it mildly, not independent - they only voice other’s opinions.

At best, they are allowed to participate in the discussion of the decision. Like, for example, the experienced diplomat Salome Zurabishvili. Of course, each has own assigned role. Given their own "history of credit" and the ideas of "screenwriters."

That is why the change of people in the post of speaker of parliament, the head of government and cabinet ministers does not change anything in the foreign policy unless their foreign counterparts have to remember new names.

In the internal affairs of Georgia, the people under discussion are, of course, much more independent. There are examples when they come to positions as a result of behind-the-scenes negotiations and undercover intrigues, expressing the interests of certain authoritative persons and groups of influence.

But there are examples when, initially being an obedient young puppet in the weary hands of Bidzina Ivanishvili, over time they try to simultaneously conduct their game. Most often, unfortunately, it comes down to money: building bribe-taking schemes and lobbying for the business interests of close relatives and old friends.

In remarks about the current state of the Georgian and Russia relations, the expert opined that if we rely solely on the public rhetoric of the Georgian authorities, then relations between Tbilisi and Moscow can hardly be called good-neighborly. However, this suits both parties. Since behind the screen of public policy, the situation, if not dramatically, is significantly different.

In particular, the presence in the Georgian economy of capital with a Russian “residence” is currently impressive and is increasing every year. It was not by chance that I indicated "Russian" registration", as investors can be ethnic Georgians and representatives of different nationalities who were born and raised in Georgia.

On what we can expect from that relations between the two states and when they reach a more stable level as was the case before this summer, the pundit added.

The anti-Russian public rhetoric of the Georgian authorities allows, first, “not to upset” Western partners, whose opinion and mood are still important for Tbilisi. Second, for the Georgian Dream, it is also a way of political survival.

After the events of 2008, Georgian society, remaining kindly inclined towards Russian society, is nevertheless negative in relation to the Russian authorities. Therefore, any positive contacts of their authorities with their Russian colleagues, apart from discussing the possible return of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Tbilisi’s control, are perceived as extremely intense. And the opposition also “tells” how this “right” is called: betrayal of the interests of Georgia.

Therefore, the Georgian Dream is forced to adapt to the mood of voters. The current President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, is not formally a protege of Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream, her legend - a compromise candidate. This is partly true. This is a compromise between Russia and the West. Zurabishvili certainly cannot be attributed to pro-Russian politicians, rather the opposite, he added.

A native of Paris and an ex-employee of the French Foreign Ministry at the head (even formally) of Georgia is more than satisfied with Tbilisi’s European and American partners, gives a weighty argument to the Georgian Dream in disputes with opponents - “look, where is Georgia’s westernized course when we have such a president?” and Russia is comfortable with the cardboard position.

At the same time, on occasion, you can blame the West for seating its agents everywhere, listing a dozen more states in Eastern Europe headed by repatriates.