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The prime minister wants to resign (or does he?)

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 2
From the very beginning of his foray into politics, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has made it clear that his time in the political arena will be short. When running for office, Ivanishvili announced his Georgian Dream party would win the parliamentary elections and that he would head the new government long enough to establish a stable democratic system in the country before stepping down.

As promised, Georgian Dream won the elections and Ivanishvili became prime minister. Since taking office he has repeated several times that he intends to step down early next year.

Politicians, analysts, the media and ordinary people are confused. What is the reason for Ivanishvili’s hurry to leave office so soon? And the most crucial question is what will happen if he really leaves.

At the beginning of summer, Ivanishvili told the Estonian media that he had definitely decided to resign from office. Later, however, he retracted this decision, saying if serious problems arise he will not leave office. However, recently Ivanishvili told EU Observer that he would resign before the New Year.

Ivanishvili’s statements are confusing. On the one hand, he speaks about his vision for the country in the next 20 years and remaining as prime minister when the country needs strong leadership; on the other hand, he keeps repeating his desire to quit.

It is obvious that such contradictory statements confuse Ivanishvili's political allies and Georgia's international partners as well as the man on the street. Such statements create a sense of instability, vagueness, and an uncertain future. It damages the international image of Georgia as well. If Ivanishvili does resign as prime minister many things will immediately change.

Why does Ivanishvili want to leave office? There are different possible answers to this question. The first answer is that according to the current constitution, a foreign citizen (Ivanishvili holds French citizenship) can hold this position only until January 2014. If no new amendments are introduced to the state constitution, Ivanishvili will be forced to resign. The Georgian Dream coalition is currently two seats short of enjoying a constitutional majority.

A second possible answer is that Ivanishvili wants to escape from the responsibility of high office. According to this explanation, before the elections the Georgian Dream coalition gave many promises which it couldn't possibly intend to keep. Therefore Ivanishvili wants to quit political office while he is still quite popular.

The third possible explanation is Ivanishvili’s wish to create room for other politicians to mature to leadership. As Ivanishvili has fulfilled his major goal of ousting the UNM from power he now wants others to take over the reins of power.

The fourth possible explanation is an emotional answer that is familiar to most Georgians. Ivanishvili wants to show people that his resignation will create many problems for everybody and therefore people should ask him to stay longer as prime minister.

There is another question and that is what will he do if he resigns? Ivanishvili has stated several times that if he resigns he will stay in the civil sector, cooperate with NGOs and continue to combat elite corruption. Presumably he will continue to be involved in constructing new roads, hospitals and schools as well as attracting tourists and investors, etc. However, his opponents from the United National Movement accuse Ivanishvili of attempting to become a "shadow governor" who will formally be outside the government, but who will in reality control things.

There is also speculation concerning the fate of the Georgian Dream coalition. Many predict that if Ivanishvili leaves office, the coalition will break into small parties that will be too small to consolidate power.