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New Georgian Prime Ministerial Candidate Named


Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (front right) with Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili at a November 2 press conference in Tbilisi, at which Ivanishvili announced his plan for Garibashvili to succeed him.

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (front right) with Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili at a November 2 press conference in Tbilisi, at which Ivanishvili announced his plan for Garibashvili to succeed him.

Outgoing Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has proposed as his successor the youngest member of the current cabinet, 31-year-old Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili, describing him as "very practical," "very honest," and "a good manager." Garibashvili for his part has affirmed his commitment to Ivansivhili's aims and principles and vowed to work "for the development of the country."

Ivanishvili, who became prime minister 13 months ago after his Georgian Dream coalition defeated President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) in the October 2012 parliamentary elections, first announced in late June his intention to step down following the election of Saakashvili's successor. In a lengthy letter to the Georgian people two months ago explaining that decision, Ivanishvili said he planned to devote himself to strengthening civil society in Georgia to the point that it would be able to exert strong public oversight on the executive branch.

Commenting in September on Ivanishvili's stated intention to resign, parliament speaker David Usupashvili argued that it will "contribute to the institutional building of country's political system, reduce overreliance on a single leader, and increase political accountability of government members and politicians in the ruling coalition."

A poll commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute nonetheless found widespread public disapproval (71 percent) of Ivanishvili's anticipated preterm resignation.

Giorgi Margvelashvili, the winner of the October 27 presidential ballot, has verbally endorsed Garibashvili as "an outstanding Georgian, member of society and member of the government."

The current government must resign following Margvelashvili's inauguration on November 17, after which the Georgian Dream parliament majority names its proposed new premier and cabinet members. They are then formally nominated by the new president and approved by parliament.

Garibashvili is a long-time Ivanishvili protégé who spent virtually his entire career until last fall working for entities owned by or affiliated with Ivanishvili. He studied international relations and law at Tbilisi State University, then acquired a second degree from the Sorbonne. He headed Ivanishvili's Cartu charitable foundation until October 2011, when Ivanishvili announced his decision to enter national politics.

During his year as head of the powerful Interior Ministry, Garibashvili took a hard line on the arrests of former senior UNM officials suspected of major criminal offenses and singled out as a priority ending the use of the ministry as a tool of "political repression" and making its workings "transparent and open to public scrutiny."

Ivanishvili has publicly credited him with restoring public trust in the police. Former human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari, now minister responsible for the penitentiary system, similarly praised Garibashvili for having "depoliticized the police" and for the fact that the crime rate did not increase following the release in an amnesty of some 10,000 prisoners.

Garibashvili had been identified as Ivanishvili's likely successor as long ago as July. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who had also been mentioned as a possible successor to Ivanishvili, lauded him as "honest, energetic, and whole-hearted." Parliament speaker Usupashvili (who has just stepped down as Republican Party chairman), noted Garibshvili's "business-like characteristics, talent and ability to assume responsibility in difficult and critical situations and to act and think broadly."

Predictably, parliamentarians from the UNM criticized the choice of Garibashvili, attributing it to his close relationship with Ivanishvili and alleging that the crime rate has increased during his tenure as interior minister.

Once formally confirmed in office, Garibashvili would be the most important and influential political figure in Georgia thanks to constitutional amendments passed in 2010 that transfer many presidential prerogatives to the prime minister. At the time, it was widely assumed that those amendments were crafted with the explicit intention of enabling Saakashvili to continue to wield supreme power as prime minister following the expiry of his second presidential term.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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