This is the latest rebound in a political crisis that has shaken the Caucasian Republic of Georgia since the contested legislative elections of October 2020: Prime Minister Guiorgui Gakharia announced his resignation on Thursday February 18 to protest against the decision of a court of ‘order the detention of Nika Melia, leader of the opposition.
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“My position is that the application of justice against a specific individual, even in a legal manner, is unacceptable if it (…) entails a risk of political escalation, ” the Prime Minister said in his departure speech.
The Georgian authorities tried to calm things down, the Interior Ministry announcing in the wake of having “Temporarily” postponed the arrest of Nika Melia. For Kornely Kakachia, political scientist and director of the “Georgian Institute of Politics”, the risk of escalation brandished by the resigning Prime Minister is indeed real: “It would have been difficult for the authorities to imprison the leader of the most important opposition party without resorting to force, which would have again reduced the credibility of the government”, he explains.
Elected at the end of last year at the head of the “Movement of National Unity”, Nika Melia is accused by the Georgian authorities of having organized the violence that took place in June 2019, when nearly 240 people were injured in the capital. Tbilisi after an angry movement triggered by the speech of a Russian deputy in the Georgian parliament. In a joint statement, several opposition parties denounced the attempted arrest of Nika Melia as a “Dramatic escalation” and promised to resist “To the authoritarian push of the Georgian Dream party”.
The opposition also regularly denounces the stranglehold of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the Georgian Dream Party, on the political life of the country. The oligarch and former prime minister assured in January that he wanted to retire from political life, an announcement greeted in Georgia with pronounced skepticism.
A deep crisis
The clashes of June 2019 foreshadowed the political crisis of October 2020, when the Georgian Dream Party claimed a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections and control of 90 of the 150 seats in parliament. The opposition, united in a coalition of 10 parties, and civil society denounce a series of fraud and intimidation in favor of the party in power. A rare show of unity then sees the opposition coalition refusing not only to recognize the results, but also to sit in parliament until new elections have been announced.
It is now difficult to anticipate what will happen next in a country whose rare democratic status in the Caucasus region is increasingly called into question. “Georgia would certainly benefit from a coalition government, but we don’t yet have a consensus mindset,” laments Kornely Kakachia. Calls for an early poll resounded again after the resignation of Guiorgui Gakharia, while a handful of protesters gathered on February 18 in front of the ruling party office to denounce a “Electoral theft”.