Irakli Alasania, ex-defense minister and leader of the Free Democrats, said on November 5 that his party quit the Georgian Dream ruling coalition.
Alasania made the announcement, which did not come as a surprise following his dismissal from defense minister’s post by PM Irakli Garibashvili a day earlier, after his brief meeting with GD coalition leaders, which was also attended by ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“We did not come here to talk with Bidzina Ivanishvili,” Irakli Alasania told journalists after he and his allies from the Free Democrats left the GD headquarters where the meeting of ruling coalition’s decision-making body, political council, was ongoing.
“It was not possible to have a conversation in a way that we wanted it to be, but we said farewell in a civilized way. Free Democrats will no longer be in the coalition. The discussion did not take place… I was planning here to actually speak with our former partners about what caused this step by the Free Democrats [to quit the coalition]. Regrettably no such conversation took place,” Alasania said.
The announcement also means that the Free Democrats faction in the Parliament will be quitting the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group.
But it remains to be seen if all 10 members of the Free Democrats faction will withdraw from the parliamentary majority group.
At least two of them are likely to remain within the parliamentary majority and in that case the GD ruling coalition will have exactly 75 seats in 150-member parliament.
If all 10 members quit, GD ruling coalition will be left with 73 MPs, which is three seats short of clear majority.
The GD ruling coalition is already in talks with some independent majoritarian MPs for possible cooperation to retain the majority group.
After sacking of Defense Minister Alasania, his allies State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze have resigned. The PM has already appointed new defense minister, but has yet to name new foreign minister and the state minister.
These three changes in the government require no parliament’s approval.
New confidence vote will only be required if at least seven out of 20 cabinet members are replaced; support of at least 76 MPs is needed for the government to win the confidence vote. Support of at least 76 MPs is also required for approval of country’s annual state budget – draft of next year’s budget will be put on vote in the parliament in December.
Alasania ruled out on November 5 his party’s political alliance with the former ruling and now opposition UNM party and said that he’s willing to keep close ties with like-minded, liberal Republican Party, which is one of the five parties remaining within the GD ruling coalition.
Khatuna Samnidze, chairperson of the Republican Party said after the meeting of GD coalition’s leadership on November 5, which was also attended by ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, that withdrawal of the Free Democrats is “a great loss” for the coalition.
“They are our long-time partners and I am sure our cooperation will continue, but there is no threat to country’s Euro-Atlantic choice today; we remain in the coalition,” she said, referring to disagreement with the Free Democrats, who claim that “politically motivated” probe into Ministry of Defense aimed at Alasania and represented attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice.
“I am sure we would have faced less of those problems, which are now, had we institutionalized more the coalition,” Samnidze said.
Late last month the Republican Party, which has 9 MPs in the parliamentary majority group, laid out its vision on the need to turn the GD coalition into “a European-style coalition” with formalized decision-making system, otherwise, it suggested, that although the party will remain in the coalition, it will have to speak out publicly whenever it disagrees with the coalition.
On November 8 Free Democrats will hold a congress – the event was announced before the GD became embroiled in this recent crisis – where Alasania is slated to be elected as party chairman, the post which he quit after he was appointed as the Defense Minister in late 2012.