Georgian prime minister resigns 10 months ahead of parliamentary election

Georgian prime minister resigns 10 months ahead of parliamentary election
By bne IntelliNews December 24, 2015

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili resigned during a five-minute televised speech on December 23 that outlined his government's accomplishments, but did not give any reasons for his resignation.

Garibashvili's resigning comes at a time of record low approval ratings for the ruling Georgian Dream party, with only 16% of respondents in a November opinion poll saying that they would vote for it if a parliamentary election were held the following day. Throughout 2015 political infighting between the Georgian Dream and the opposition United National Movement (UNM) has left the Georgian electorate disenchanted with and uninterested in politics. The country, which has a semi-presidential system in which the government and president share executive powers, will hold a parliamentary election in October 2016, and Garibashvili's resignation is expected to provide space for an image makeover to the embattled ruling party.

“We have a young democracy, therefore it is of huge importance what kind of example we will set for our children and future generations. Official posts are temporary; God and homeland are eternal. Therefore, today I took a decision to leave the post of prime minister,” Garibashvili said during his speech. “Peace and stability, legality and humaneness were established during my prime ministerial tenure. We returned freedom and dignity to our citizens. Due to large-scale reforms and unprecedented governmental programmes implemented by us, we laid a firm foundation for economic and social welfare... We also achieved historical results – we signed the Association Agreement with the European Union and launched free trade [negotiations]; we also received consent on visa-free travel rules for our citizens that made our country’s integration into the European family irreversible.” 

The 33-year-old prime minister is a close ally of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who founded Georgian Dream in 2012. He worked with Ivanishvili for eight years and served as interior minister for a year before being appointed head of the government. He will remain acting prime minister until parliament confirms a new government. According to the constitution, President Giorgi Margvelashvili has seven days to name a candidate for prime minister, and parliament would then vote on the president's choice.

Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili said that he expected the new government do be confirmed before the end of 2015. The Georgian media is speculating that a new prime minister could be chosen from among Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili; Healthcare Minister Davit Sergeenko; Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili; or Mamuka Bakhtadze, head of the state-owned Georgian Railway company. 

Tim Ash of Nomura International does not expect the change in government to “have a huge market impact”. He sees the resignation more as positioning by Georgian Dream ahead of parliamentary elections, “as the party needs to freshen up its image”.