Giorgi Gakharia's nomination: criticism from opposition, skepticism in the West

The ruling party nominated Giorgi Gakharia as next prime minister
The ruling party nominated Giorgi Gakharia as next prime minister

After Georgia's 'hot summer', which are best remembered for the riots, another aggravation of Georgian-Russian relations and the subsequent outflow of Russian tourists, the country is still shaking. It seems that the 'gray cardinal' of Georgian politics, the chairman of the Georgian Dream ruling party, oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili decided to bet on further polarization of Georgian society in anticipation of the 2020 parliamentary election.

Moreover, critics of the Georgian authorities, both inside the country and abroad, see the change of ownership and personnel of the Rustavi-2 television station, as well as TV Pirveli owner Vakhtang Tsereteli's recent poll on the scandalous case of TBC Bank, as alarming crackdown trends in the Georgian media space.

One can differently assess the legitimacy of the Georgian security forces's actions during the protests that shook Tbilisi in late June this year. Those who observed the opposition's behavior in those days can hardly call it peaceful. The use of force by the police in those days was clearly legitimate and necessary, but the adequacy of the force used was a more delicate issue, especially in the context of demonstrators who lost their eyes and became one of the symbols of the summer protest. Against this background, the 'demonization' of Georgy Gakharia took place, when the opposition held him personally liable for crackdown. In this sense, the nomination of the Minister of Internal Affairs as prime minister (by the way, his resignation was one of the Georgian opposition's main demands during the days of protests) is an obvious step towards further polarization of Georgian society, the consequences of which in the dynamics of Georgia’s turbulent domestic political life are difficult to predict.

In the West, whose opinion is so highly valued in Georgia - both by its authorities and the opposition - was rather skeptical about Bidzina Ivanishvili’s new appointment. So far this results in the discussions that have unfolded in the expert community. British journalist and expert on the South Caucasus Thomas De Waal fears that after Gakharia is appointed as head of government, "Georgian politics will become even more messy." "Does Bidzina Ivanishvili think that the only way to win the next election is to get tough? If yes, then this is a big step backward for Georgia," the expert noted. Famous German journalist specializing in the Caucasus Silvia Stöber also describes Gakharia as "an extremely controversial figure." Meanwhile, Giorgi Lomsadze said in the article published by Eurasianet.org: "Adding fuel to the fire, Gakharia’s nomination was praised by Russian Duma member Sergey Gavrilov, whose surprise appearance in the Georgian parliament provoked the protests in June." The rest of the article, citing Georgian political experts, says that Ivanishvili may have installed Gakharia as a lightning rod to absorb any public anger with the authorities, "while the billionaire himself can remain at a safe, formal remove from the political front lines." "Ivanishvili is tired of taking all the hits and so essentially he wants to hide behind Gakharia," political commentator Gia Khukhashvili was cited as saying.

Thus, even before Giorgi Gakharia is approved as prime minister, a certain negative information background was formed around him. At the same time, the opposition has already started a protest against Ivanishvili's nominee. In this regard, Georgia's new Prime Minister will have to face a much more complicated environment than his predecessors faced.

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