Prime Minister tries to save 'Georgian Dream'

Khidasheli vs Topadze
Khidasheli vs Topadze

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili made a special statement about the need to end public debate between the parties of the ruling coalition Georgian Dream coalition – the "industrialists" of businessman Gogi Topadze and the republicans of Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli. The Prime Minister especially warned the head of the Defense Ministry, hinting at "changes in the government", if she won't stop polemic with her coalition colleagues. The confrontation between the coalition parties is explained by the ideological incompatibility and differences in foreign policy preferences. Disagreements within the coalition, and especially its possible collapse, can affect the outcome of the historic parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

The Prime Minister warned Ms. Khidasheli that if she will not immediately stop public polemic with the leader of the coalition party 'Industry Will Save Georgia', Gogi Topadze, he will take "decisive measures to restore normal work of government." "Political confrontation within the coalition took a completely unacceptable form," Giorgi Kvirikashvili noted. "It does not matter who started this polemic or why. Politicians should show more responsibility." The Prime Minister reminded the Defense Minister that by engaging in a public debate on political issues with colleagues in the ruling coalition, she not only damages the inter-party union, but "also politicizes the army, which is absolutely unacceptable."

The scandalous theme of the confrontation between the "industrialists" and the "republicans" has been developing for several months already. Parties with such different world outlooks could be in one coalition only in the process of "a joint fight against the common enemy," which existed for them in anticipation of the parliamentary elections in 2012 as represented by President Saakashvili and his team.

 

The political union with a very exotic name 'Industry Will Save Georgia' was founded in 1997. Its founder and leader Gogi Topadze is called the "Beer King", he is one of the most successful businessmen in the country. Stepping out of the environment of the "red directors" of the Soviet era, Topadze founded the brewing company 'Kazbegi', which soon grew into a conglomerate. Topadze always spoke against the International Monetary Fund and for state intervention in economic processes in order to protect domestic business; and recently he began to demand respect for "the achievements of genius Joseph Stalin", expressing skepticism not only on the issue of accession to NATO, but also in relation to cooperation with the United States, which, in his opinion, "never brought good to anybody." At the same time, he considers Russia "an acceptable and important partner."
The Republican Party was founded in the late 1970s by Soviet-era dissident writer Levan Berdzenishvili, together with his brother, David Berdzenishvili, (today both are members of parliament from 'Georgian Dream') and other colleagues in the joint fight against the communist regime. This party traditionally favors accession to NATO, opposes any geopolitical compromise with Russia and speaks for liberalism (up to libertarianism) in the economy.

Naturally, the survival of parties with such different ideological platforms in a single coalition was initially problematic. But public debate broke out after Gogi Topadze openly spoke for reconciliation with Russia, against joining NATO, and sang an ode to Joseph Stalin as "one of the greatest geniuses of mankind." In response, the representative of republicans in the government, Tinatin Khidasheli, sarcastically spoke about the "uselessness" of Topadze and his party: "I did not even know that he was a member of parliament."

76-year-old Topadze perceived these words as a deadly insult, and accused Khidasheli of politicization of the army, in particular, of the use of "military special units" for the falsification of recent municipal elections in the Sagarejo district. Topadze demanded that the Prosecutor General's Office initiate a criminal case against the Minister of Defense and almost achieved its goal – the Prosecutor General's Office did indeed initiate a case, however not against Khidasheli, but on the basis of "abuse of power" and on the basis of Topadze's statements. This became an "alarm bell" for the republicans, and the statement of the Prime Minister with harsh rebuke to the Minister of Defence confirms that the concerns of the most radical pro-Western party are not groundless.

But it would be simplistic to reach a conclusion about a change in the foreign policy course of the Georgian government. Apparently, the Prime Minister did not like the fact that the Minister of Defence, who must deal with totally different tasks, is entering the public political polemic with one of the leaders of the ruling coalition and a representative of influential business circles. After all, other republican leaders, who do not hold posts in the Cabinet of Ministers, also could answer Topadze, and no less sarcastically than the head of the Defense Ministry, who believes that she has the right to comment on anything and everything.

The public "ideological fight" in the ruling coalition, especially with the participation of the members of the Cabinet of Ministers, harms the ruling coalition and leads to its split on the threshold of the parliamentary elections. And the team of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, the opposition 'United National Movement', is not broken and is preparing for the future elections very actively.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister will soon have to make a tough choice between the "industrialists" and the Republicans, that is, between Topadze and Khidasheli, behind whom the entire young, liberal, pro-Western elite of the country stands. According to most observers, in this situation Giorgi Kvirikashvili has no good moves, which would not lead to a further weakening of the 'Georgian Dream' coalition.

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