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Two ministers resign, one dismissed… a new stage in Georgian politics

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, November 6
Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alex Petriashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maia Panjikidze and her deputies: Davit Zalkaliani, Tamar Beruchashvili and others, voluntarily quit their posts following the Defense Minister Irakli Alasania’s dismissal. There are speculations that Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani, who is Alasania’s party member, might also resign. The former defense minister met with the prime minister to speak about the “country’s future”. However, after the meeting Alasania stated that there was the founder of the Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili at the coalition’s Political Council sitting and discussions failed. Free democrats left the coalition. As it appears the Georgian Dream will not have a majority in the legislative body.

Several officials of the Defense Ministry were detained several days ago and were accused of the embezzlement of several million GEL from the state budget. They were detained during Minister Alasania’s visit to Germany and France. Alasania stated that he was sure in the innocence of his staff and emphasized that he personally observed the cable-communication system purchasing process from Silknet Cable Company. After the detention, the Prosecutor’s Office charged several other employees of the ministry of Defense for the mass food-poisoning of soldiers in 2013 in a case of negligence.

The same evening, Alasania directly accused the Prosecutor’s Office of politically motivated action and stressed that the process put Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic prospects at risk. The minister’s statement resulted in his firing. The next day, Gharibashvili also dismissed five deputies of Alasania. Prime Minister Gharibashvili condemned Alasania’s statement, stressing that Alasania’s actions were causing a politicization of the Defence Ministry, which was categorically unacceptable to him. Instead he appointed Mindia Janelidze, 35, who held the post of Secretary of the State Security and Crisis Management Council and stressed that he would be a much better minister than his predecessor was.

Commenting on his dismissal, Alasania stated that he saw a prosecutor instead of a prime minister. According to him, he has a suspicion that everything was planned in advance to discredit the Defense Ministry. The minister emphasized that there was no need of detaining the people during his absence. He reiterated that he would fight for the release of his innocent employees.

"In these circumstances it is clear that the minister of defense was pursued for political reasons, and it is an attack on pro-Western members in the Georgian government," former Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze stated when she made a statement regarding resignation with her deputies.

Gharibashvili stressed that he was disappointed that Panjikidze expressed solidarity with her family member (Alasania is her brother-in-law) and not to the state.

The United National Movement called the developments alarming and demanded that the government should explain who is creating obstacles for the country’s advancement. Leader of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Nino Burjanadze states that Alasania’s statement was inadequate and that is what pushed the prime minister to dismiss him.

“He spoke as if the country’s European development was solely dependent on him and his ministry,” Burjanadze said, and stressed the current situation is a political crisis. Analyst Mamuka Areshidze states that the Free Democrats leaving the coalition would cause serious complications, as the GD will have no majority in parliament. Fellow analyst Khatuna Lagazidze does not believe that there is a political crisis in the country.

“The political crisis might take place if both Free Democrats and Republicans leave the coalition.” The analyst states that the current government is not afraid of Alasania’s public status and does not take him as a strong opposition leader in the future.