Garibashvili resigns as Georgia's prime minister

Garibashvili resigns as Georgia's prime minister
Garibashvili's resignation comes only a month after billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's third return to join the leadership of the ruling party he founded. / bne IntelliNews
By Tornike Mandaria in Tbilisi January 29, 2024

Irakli Garibashvili, the Georgian premier, has announced his resignation, only a month after billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's third return to join the leadership of the ruling party he founded.

"One of the most important factors of the strength of our political team is internal democracy, the most clear manifestation of which is the principle of rotation. There are many successful leaders in the team, and it is necessary to give others the opportunity," Garibashvili said during a televised briefing on January 29.

Garibashvili, who held a leading position in Ivanishvili's foundation Kartu before entering politics, also took a moment to thank him.

Garibashvili has served as premier twice. Initially appointed in 2013, replacing Ivanishvili, he held the position until December 2015. Following Ivanishvili's return to the position of chairman in April 2018, Garibashvili rejoined the party in the spring of 2019 and was reappointed as premier in 2021.

This shift in the ruling party comes after Ivanishvili's formal return to politics for the third time as the party's 'honorary chair' a month ago. Ivanishvili said the opposition is too weak to keep the ruling party on its toes, so he would take on the role to prevent corruption, as well as strengthening the party for the upcoming elections this autumn.

The opposition Main Channel reports that key ministers, for culture, justice, foreign affairs, defence, and health, will depart from the cabinet. 

The pro-government media Imedi has named Chairman of Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze, a former speaker of the parliament, as Garibashvili's successor. Garibashvili, in turn, will replace Kobakhidze, in a swapping of positions. The official announcement is anticipated at the Georgian Dream party congress on Thursday.

Kobakhidze, known for his anti-Western rhetoric, previously served as parliament speaker from 2016 to 2019, resigning amidst mass anti-government protests over a controversial visit by Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov to the Georgian parliament. 

Appointed chair of the ruling party in 2021, Kobakhidze played a pivotal role in a constitutional lawsuit against the president over her unauthorised visits to European capitals to advocate for the country’s Euroatlantic integration.

Opposition UNM parliamentary leader Tina Bokuchava commented: “One stooge announces his resignation while another prepares to take his place, but nobody is remotely fooled as to what is behind this poorly choreographed charade. “What is clear is that the Russian-made oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili is reshuffling his pack to tighten his grip on power as elections approach later this year."