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  Will Russia solve Georgia‘s political problems?

Inga Popovaitë, political commentator
2014 11 10

G. Margvelashvili who‘s been serving the second term as President of Georgia continues to move away from the influence of his patron B. Ivanishvili. This puts a lot of pressure on President and Prime Minister I. Garibashvili, a close trustee of B.Ivanishvili.  Yet, most probably new Russia‘s policy toward Abkhazia will unite these political opponents.

A year ago, when Georgia didn’t yet have its new leader, the then Prime Minister B. Ivanishvili didn’t spare compliments to a political newcomer, „philosopher“ and close friend G. Margvelashvili. But as soon as B. Ivanishvili was elected president, he gave this post to I. Garibashvili who‘s been working with him in the business empire for a long time. But before leaving this post Ivanishvili said that he was going to further influence Georgia‘s political life since this is a duty of all citizens.

In March 2014 B.Ivanishvili couldn’t hide discontent with the activity of a newly elected President. According to Ivanishvili, G. Margvelashvili didn‘t want to follow his advice on policy issues, and even nominated V. Machvariani as his advisor (his brother is one of the representatives of M. Saakashvili‘s United National Movement in Georgia‘s Parliament). Whereas Ivanishvili was and still is satisfied with the activity of Prime Minister.

I‘d like to remind that amendments to the Constitution giving the head of the Government extraordinary powers and leaving to the President only formal authority, came into force by the end of the term of M.Saakashvili. During Saakashvili‘s years in office nobody had doubts who should represent Georgia in the international forums; however, now Prime Minister is constantly competing with the President on leadership in the international events or in signing national agreements.

The Association Agreement with the EU was signed not by President but by Prime Minister I.G aribashvili. His Government managed to get the authorisation to sign this Agreement on behalf of Georgia on the ground that international agreements signed by President must anyway be approved by the Government (according to Constitution) and that this would help to avoid additional bureaucracy.

But this is not the only time when President had to concede. The last time when state leaders came into confrontation was when they were getting prepared for the UN General Assembly in New York. They both planned to deliver speeches in the UN Climate Summit, but G.Margvelashvili had to back out again. But this time, during the press conference, he announced that Georgia‘s Government has consciously prevented him from representing Georgia in the UN Assembly and that Government is about to restrict his travels.

Afterwards B. Ivanishvili accused President of the increasing gap between the Government and Presidency, and this was an astonishing issue for Georgian non-governmental organisations. For instance, representation of „Transparency International“ in Georgia disseminated the letter saying that Government‘s disrespect for the President weakens democratic institutions. The letter highlights the constitutional principle describing division of powers and emphasises that constant criticism against President could be treated as efforts of the governing coalition and its Government to give the power to the hands of one party.

Thus, Georgian institutions are testing each other‘s patience, whereas the Kremlin does everything to increase its influence in Abkhazia. Draft Agreement On Cooperation and Integration between Russian Federation and Abkhaz Republic stipulates the establishment of joint Russian and Abkhaz defence and law enforcement institutions.  One of the main points in the agreement is that Russia and Abkhazia have committed to help each other in case of critical aggression; thus, there is no wonder that Georgia‘s President condemned this Kremlin‘s initiative: „ it is a rough action directed against Georgia‘s Independence and territorial integrity“. According to him, these agreements pose threat to the security in the Black Sea Region and Caucasus and are in contradiction with the terms of the international Geneva Peace Talks.  

In his turn, I. Garibashvili noted the threat of this agreement to the Abkhaz nation. „This agreement is very important for us, for I do care about the future and fate of our Abkhaz brothers. Signature of the above document first of all poses threat to Abkhaz identity“, said Prime Minister of Georgia.  

Abkhazia expects to sign this agreement by the end of the year. This is an obvious pressure on Tbilisi, since growing Russia‘s influence on Abkhazia practically gives no chance for Georgia to bring Abkhazia back. But, on the other hand, such Russia‘s actions should unite I. Garibashvili and G. Margvelashvili and make them search for compromise in order to tear Abkhazia from Russia‘s zone of influence. Even if this will not end in friendship, such cooperation should reduce disagreements between the state leaders. And this will work well for Georgia.

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