The Georgian roller-coaster continues non stop.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili at the Congress of his Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi on 16 February 2013.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili at the Congress of his Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi on 16 February 2013.

Only days after Georgian politics plunged into pessimism with ugly scenes of intolerance in front of the National Library as President, Government and Parliament played a cat and mouse game which they insist on calling cohabitation, it was time for the roller coaster to turn on the up side. Reconciliation was in the air as the two sides pulled back from brinkmanship politics and focused instead on necessary compromise. The sight of two MPs, one from the government coalition and one from the opposition having a fist fight on live prime tv was not reassuring, but Georgians have got used to theatrics and are no longer much impressed by it.

Of more substance was the news that the Government and the opposition were edging closer to agreeing a constitutional settlement that would address the immediate concerns of the two sides. More…

End of a dream or the beginning of reality?

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

A terse statement on the website of the government of Georgia on 23 January said that the Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili had relieved the Defence Minister Irakli Alasania of his other role as First Deputy Prime Minister. The announcement triggered widespread speculation about the reasons for Alasania’s demotion, and of splits in the governing Georgian Dream coalition whose spectacular victory in last year’s autumn parliamentary elections changed the Georgian political landscape.

The problem between Ivanishvili and Alasania arose following rumours that Alasania was preparing to present himself as a candidate in the Presidential elections in October and that some of his supporters had already started soliciting support, including from members of other Georgian Dream Coalition parties. Ivanishvili, speaking to Georgian journalists in Davos, said that this had created some problems within the coalition and described this as “Alasania’s small mistake”. Ivanishvili also said that when he recently decided to pay more attention to development of his own party, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, including in the provinces, he in advance informed about it and consulted over it with other parties within the six-party Georgian Dream coalition.

There was widespread speculation in the Georgian media about the significance of these developments. Some described them as “the end of a dream”. It had been recognised throughout the election campaign that the coalition was too disparate to be held together, and that it will unravel as soon as the election passes. Indeed this remains a prospect, but for the moment a distant one. Both Ivanishvili and Alasania have sought to downplay the incident and to explain it as part of political reality – normal tension within a coalition.

At the heart of the issue however is the personality of Bidhzina Ivanishvili himself. Ivanishvili continues to be underestimated by friend and foe alike. His dealing with Alasania shows once again that he is not a person to take nonsense from anybody. It also confirms that for Ivanishvili’s loyalty is a virtue above all others.

Ivanishvili has however to learn that the rules of the political world are similar but not the same as those of the business world. Political support and political legitimacy, are, like loyalty, not easily quantifiable. His government already stands accused of being too narrow based, and there are many elements in Georgia who feel they have been left out, despite the fact that they had also opposed the previous government. If Ivanishvili rocks his own boat too much it may do harm that he will not be able to undo later.

However most observers feel that Ivanishvili and Alasania for the moment at least, need each other, and unless there are further complications the issue will pass without much further ado. How the Georgian Dream coalition will deal with the issue of the forthcoming Presidential elections will however be an important test for its long term durability.

source: CEW Editorial team

Exclusive Interview with Irakli Alasania: “Individual Freedoms are central in our ideology”. 2

In the first in a series of interviews with Georgian political leaders ahead of the 1 October Parliamentary elections, Caucasus Elections Watch interviews Irakli Alasania, Leader of our Georgia-Free Democrats, one of the coalition partners in the Georgian Dream Opposition bloc.

In the wide-ranging interview Alasania speaks in detail of his party’s plans in the social-economic sector, as well as on the need for a refocus of Georgia’s foreign policy within a pro western orientation. More…

Political heavyweights lined up to contest majoritarian seats in Georgian Polls.

The hardly fought election campaign in Georgia is fully under way, characterised by a competitive environment, even though the main opposition bloc remains under what many consider to be, unnecessary pressure.

A feature of this campaign that had been largely missing in previous Georgian elections with a few exceptions is the competitive nature in the part of the elections reserved for majoritarian candidates, namely those contesting for the single member constituency seats that make up nearly half of the 150 person parliament.

The two main political forces, Saakashvili’s United National Movement and Bidhzina Ivanishvili’s opposition “Georgian Dream bloc have both assigned some of their top people to contest the so-called majoritarian seats as their importance in this election has now become evident. More…

Georgian NGOs condemn the lack of impartiality of the State Audit Service and accuse it of “irreparable damage to the election environment in Georgia.”

The “This Affects You Too” campaign, a coalition of democracy advocates and civil society activists from across Georgia, have appealed to the international community to pay more attention to the campaign environment in the South Caucasus nation. With the rejection of the appeal made by billionaire leader of the opposition coalition, Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and Georgian Dream majoritarian candidate, former footballer, Kakha Kaladze, to overturn what they deem unlawful fines, This Affects You Too is turning up its international game plan. This Affects You Too has publicly questioned the impartiality of the State Audit Service (SAS) in Georgia, arguing that the SAS has demonstrated its allegiance to the ruling party as opposed to a free and democratic Georgia. In a statement released this week, the election-monitoring coalition has called the work of the SAS “too subjective” and “aimed at [harassing] opposition parties” – pointing to the particular attention the SAS is paying to the Georgian Dream coalition. The report continues that while the SAS, at first, was at least trying to cloak their activities as objective, at this stage the SAS, according to the This Affects You Too report, does not even bother to feign impartiality. The report cites the fact that despite serious allegations of vote-buying, illegal campaign contributions and the abuse of administrative resources that have surfaced against the ruling party, a disproportionately small amount of cases have been opened, let alone pursued, against the governing United National Movement in comparison with those brought against the opposition. More…