Georgia – Mass demonstrations and the resignation of the prime minister

In May a wave of demonstrations hit Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. They started when the government suddenly carried out a series of operations against the night clubs there and the so-called “Night Economy” that was led by by Mayor of Tbilisi, the former AC Milan defender, Kakha Kaladze[1]. The Tbilisi nightclub scene is among the best in the world[2] and the government’s actions led to the anger of young people in particular, with thousands coming out onto the street to protest[3]. Such demonstrations have been rare in Georgia under the current regime. However, the government was forced to respond by reopening a number of the night clubs[4].

Shortly thereafter, a second wave of public protest occurred. The murder of two young people in a public school in Tbilisi was not being investigated thoroughly. Following a verdict of the Tbilisi Court, the father of the deceased and his supporters launched mass protests in the capital. They believed that the family members of high-ranking officials were guilty of the murder and the government was protecting them. Some political parties supported the protest and the government said that they were political. Finally, though, the chief prosecutor resigned[5] and the government agreed to create an investigative commission[6] in parliament. With the government enjoying a majority there, the main goal was to stop the protests and calm the situation down for a period.

Soon, though, there were calls for the resignation of the government and a short time later Prime Minister Kvirikashvili announced his resignation[7]. When he explained the reasons for his decision[8], he did not mention the protest rallies. The Prime Minister simply said that there were differences between him and the governing team[9]. We still do not really know why the prime minister resigned. It is noteworthy that the President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, questioned the change, wondering why Kvirikashvili had disappeared from the political arena[10].

After Kvirikashvili’s resignation, the ruling Georgian Dream party named a new prime ministerial candidate, Mamuka Bakhtadze[11]. He had been the Finance Minister in Kvirikashvili’s cabinet and is known as a close and trusted friend of the founder of the party, Bidzina Ivanishvili. Bakhtadze is 36 years old and has little political experience, working in managerial positions in the public and private sectors. He is considered to be a “technocrat” and experts say that political decisions will be made by Ivanishvili himself.

The new Prime Minister formed a temporary government with the same composition[12]  stating that he would submit a new government to Parliament when changes were made. The Parliament of Georgia quickly expressed confidence in Bakhtadze’s caretaker government[13].

Despite its status, the government proposed a series of reforms. Prime Minister Bakhtadze put forward the concept of so-called “small government”, which implies the unification of certain ministries and state agencies, leading to cost reductions. The government envisages up to 11 reductions to 14 ministries. However, a long-term strategy of deregulation, decentralization, or deployment is absent. . This has been a feature of Georgian politics recently. There have been a lot of new structures, commissions and the like, creating a certain instability, but very few strategic reforms.

In the end, Prime Minister Bakhtadze presented a new government[14], in which the Ministers of Education, Science and Sport, Finance, Economy and Sustainable Development, and Foreign Affairs changed. In addition, a minister from the old government, Kakhishvili, who had successfully conducted reforms of the prison system was appointed as the head of the government administration. Following two days of hearings, parliament expressed confidence in the government. This is the fourth Georgian Dream government since 2012.

Overall, we can say that with Georgia trying to develop a classical parliamentary or mixed system of governance, governmental changes are not related to electoral accountability.

Notes

[1] Special operation in clubs: Who killed Kaladze’s “night economy”? https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/სპეცოპერაცია-კლუბებში-ვინ-გაწირა-კალაძის-ღამის-ეკონომიკა/29222990.html

[2] Tbilisi Night Club is among the 20 best night clubs in the world; https://pia.ge/post/138360-tbilisis-ramis-klubi-msoflios-20-sauketeso-ramis-klubs-soris-liderobs

[3] We dance together – in “Basian” action; http://netgazeti.ge/news/280606/

[4] Club “Basiani” was opened; https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/კლუბი-ბასიანი-გაიხსნა/29245833.html

[5] Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze resigned; https://www.ambebi.ge/article/223907-mtavari-prokurori-irakli-shotaze-gadadga/

[6] Temporary Investigation Commission has been approved in Khorava Street case – get acquainted with the composition; https://www.ambebi.ge/article/224191-xoravas-kuchis-sakmeze-droebiti-sagamoziebo-komisia-damtkicda-gaecanit-shemadgenlobas/

[7] Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned; https://www.ambebi.ge/article/224495-premier-ministri-giorgi-kvirikashvili-gadadga/

[8] Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned as prime minister; https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/29288896.html

[9] Kvirikashvili: There was a difference of opinions between me and the ruling team; https://on.ge/story/24070-კვირიკაშვილი-ჩემსა-და-მმართველ-გუნდს-შორის-აზრთა-სხვადასხვაობა-გამოიკვეთა

[10] Giorgi Margvelashvili: Why did Kvirikashvili leave the political field? In fact, why is it cut out of the textbook? https://commersant.ge/ge/post/giorgi-margvelashvili-ratom-gaqra-politikuri-velidan-kvirikashvili-faqtobrivad-saxelmdzgvaneloebidan-misi-fotos-amochra-ratom-xdeba

[11] The Prime Minister of Georgia will be Mamuka Bakhtadze; http://www.newposts.ge/?l=ge&id=176100-ბახტაძე,%20პრემიერი

[12] Mamuka Bakhtadze holds the first session of the government as prime minister; https://www.ipress.ge/new/116660-mamuka-bakhtadze-premieris-rangshi-mtavrobis-pirvel-skhdomas-martavs

[13] Bakhtadze’s temporary government is approved – list of ministers; http://www.resonancedaily.com/index.php?id_rub=4&id_artc=50459

[14] Mamuka Bakhtadze presented the new composition of the government; https://imedinews.ge/ge/saqartvelo/69732/mamuka-bakhtadzem-mtavrobis-akhali-shemadgenloba-tsaradgina

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