Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, has just announced that his party quits the Georgian Dream ruling coalition. What this will mean for the coalition is not yet known. The Georgian Dream coalition consisted of six parties, which together have 83 out of 150 seats in Parliament. The Free Democrats have 10 seats, which means that the remaining coalition have lost its majority in Parliament. Yesterday Prime Minister Garibashvili already announced that he dismissed Alasania as Minister of Defense.
Arrest of Ministry of Defense officials
Last week one former and four serving officials from the Defense Ministry and general staff of the armed forces were arrested for a case related to alleged sham tender. They allegedly misused state funds. Defense Minister Alasania always emphasised that he is ‘absolutely, completely confident in the innocence of the arrested Minstry of Defense officials’.
Yesterday evening Alasania said that the arrests of the Ministry of Defense officials are obviously politically motivated. "I want to clearly state that this is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice; this is an attack on the structure, which has been and is distinguished with its successful reforms and is distinguished on the path of achieving this foreign policy goal," Alasania said.
Within four hours Prime Minster Garibashvili came with his response and dismissed Alasania as Minister of Defense. "Instead of contributing to the investigation in order to help establish objective truth into the case, Irakli Alasania’s actions are causing politicization of the Defense Ministry and of the armed forces, which is categorically inadmissible for me and which affects negatively on our country’s security and government’s efficient work," he said.
Other Ministers quit
Shortly after the announcement by Prime Minister Garibashvili, Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili announced that he plans to file for resignation. Petriashivili is from the Free Democrats party, the party of Alasania. This morning it became clear that also Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze resigns. Panjikidze is not a member of Alasania’s Free Democrats party, but for many her resignation did not come as a suprise, since she is the sister of Alasania’s wife. Panjikidze also quits Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party, the party chaired by Prime Minister Garibashvili.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulakiani just announced that she has no intention to step down. Tsulakiani is a member of Alasania’s party, but she emphasized that "as long as I have full freedom to work for Georgia’s European future, as long as me and my team in this ministry have freedom to work on reforms, which I deeply believe, lead Georgia to Europe and as I have and had no reason whatsoever to think that our government is not pro-European, me and my team remain in leadership of the Justice Ministry and continue working for the Georgian state."
What will happen now?
After the Georgian Dream political council meeting today, Alasania announced that his party quits the ruling coalition. As mentioned above, the coalition will hereby lose its majority in Georgian Parliament. It is not (yet) clear what will happen with the coalition. Rumours around Parliament suggest that independent members of Parliament will support the coalition. However, the question remains how stabile such an agreement will be.
U. S. Ambassador Richard Norland has urged all parties in Georgia to work towards stability, unity, demonstrated commitment to due process and the rule of law, and public confidence in democratic institutions, and to focus on future for the country that is firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic institutions. He, however, also added that there are ‘legitimate concerns’ that the judicial system is being used in a politicized way.
Sources: Civil.ge (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty