The messenger logo

The case of Girchi - the evergreen symbol of libertarianism in Georgia

By Veronika Malinboym
Friday, December 11
The controversial Girchi party is faced with an internal crisis, as one of the party’s co-founders, Zurab Japaridze has announced that he no longer wants to be associated with the party’s other three key figures - Iago Khvichia, Vakhtang Megrelishvili, and Aleksandre Rakviashvili. The reasons are not yet specified, however, Japaridze claimed that it has nothing to do with the highly controversial statement from Iago Khvichia, who has recently expressed his views on the possession of underage pornography, saying “nobody should be punished for watching anything.” It is yet to be seen how the party’s leaders will come to a working compromise, without jeopardizing years of Girchi’s hard work.

Ever since it was first created in 2015, the Girchi party has been the center of public attention and a source of controversy and challenge to the country’s political discourse. What started as an opposition party established by ex-members of the former ruling National Movement, has now become a new symbol of non-conventional ways of politics and social mobilization.

It seems like this party has made it its sole goal to go against every established tradition that the other political parties uphold here in Georgia. It prefers online platforms (especially Facebook) as a tool for communicating their agenda, fundraising, and enrolling new party members. Its ways of achieving political goals are not any less unconventional (yet, in no way less effective) – from planting marijuana seeds on a New Year’s Eve to opening a brothel in the party’s headquarters and establishing its own church to allow young Georgian men to avoid military service – Girchi never ceases to surprise the public and the country’s political establishment.

However, what is the party’s role in Georgia’s struggle to establish a sustainable, Western-like Democracy?

Well, that is when the controversy really kicks in. Some believe that Girchi is nothing more than a long-lasting prank, almost a form of art, that makes civil disobedience take a new, astonishing form, and challenges the traditional values that the country holds dear. Others – supporters of Girchi- claim that it is the future of Georgian politics, and it is only the ‘pinecone’ and its new, liberty-oriented agenda, that will bring the country forward towards the future of welfare, Western values, and high standards of living.

During the October Parliamentary Elections, Girchi obtained a total of 4 seats in Parliament, however, following the decision of other parties of the opposition sector, it has boycotted the seats and refused to claim them. Although this decision is understandable, it is unfortunate, nonetheless. By entering the Parliament, the party could have demonstrated that it can go beyond mobilizing the public and can, indeed, show the same commitment to its political goals, like the one that the party demonstrated during the struggle to make marijuana consumption legal in Georgia.

Ok, but what’s next?

Storm in the headquarters aside, there are many other questions to be answered about Girchi’s role in the country’s political arena. Will the party be able to reinvent itself as an efficient political mechanism with the people’s best interest in mind, or will it remain what it is today – a single-issue party, whose main goal is to cause controversy and unrest – regardless of how well-intentioned it is. This is exactly why the current Parliamentary crisis is so unfortunate and so untimely. However, if the evergreen pine cone is not a symbol of patience – then what is?