Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili unexpectedly announced his resignation on Monday. His Georgian Dream party is trying to boost its popularity ahead of this year's parliamentary elections, expected in the fall. The formation's image was badly damaged in 2023 by the massive protests against corruption and the wink at Moscow as the country applies for membership in the European Union. Furthermore, the resignation coincides with the return of the party's founder, pro-Russian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is still considered the party's shadow leader.
“There are more successful leaders in the team and it is necessary to give others a chance,” Garibashvili said when announcing his departure. In addition, new tasks now lie ahead of us: in the fall we will elect a new parliament and Georgian Dream must prepare to win the elections convincingly and aim for higher goals.”
The European Union granted Georgia candidate country status in mid-December. A long journey that the population saw in jeopardy last year when Georgian Dream introduced a bill that would tighten the persecution of opponents and activists and brand them as foreign agents, which ultimately failed. In addition, Garibashvili resumed flights with Russia that had been suspended since the 2008 war in Georgia, and he publicly clashed with Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky, accusing him of “trying to create a second front” against Russia to open his country.
These new bridges with Moscow were reminiscent of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's backsliding in 2013, when his withdrawal from the trade deal with Brussels under pressure from Kemlin sparked the pro-European Maidan protests.
The Prime Minister has resigned, just weeks after the Georgian Dream founder suddenly returned to the frontline. Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in Russia before coming to power in Georgia in 2012, was named the party's honorary president in December.
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Garibashvili was prime minister twice. Between 2013 and 2015, when he succeeded Ivanishvili as head of the Georgian government, the businessman began to exercise his power in the shadows; and since 2021, when he replaced his party colleague Giorgi Gajaria when, until this Monday, he refused to comply with the arrest of the opposition leader Nika Melia, whom the judiciary accused of organizing “massive violence” during government protests.
The party will elect its new candidate for prime minister on February 1, who will later be appointed by Parliament. According to the Georgian press, Irakli Kobajidze will be the successor in office and will also replace several ministers, including those of defense, foreign affairs and justice.
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