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PM’s Resignation: Expert Assessments in Washington DC

On June 13, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced his resignation citing differences of opinion on economic matters with the ruling Georgian Dream party members, as well as the GD founder and leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. Voice of America’s Ani Chkhikvadze has asked Davit Kramer, Paul Stronski, John Herbst and Kenneth Yalowitz to comment on Kvirikashvili’s resignation, asking them to assess the reasons for Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s departure and the potential consequences of the change.

David Kramer, Professor at the Florida State University and Affiliated Senior Fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership

Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s resignation is not a huge surprise, except that it took longer than many people previously anticipated. Ever since assuming the prime ministerial position in late 2015, he has been in an impossible position, since Bidzina Ivanishvili has really been the one calling the shots. Kvirikashvili is a decent man who did his best to move Georgia forward, but he was burdened with constantly having to look over his shoulder to get approval from Ivanishvili. That kind of situation is not very sustainable. Either Ivanishvili should come out of the shadows and take full responsibility for running the country or he should step back and let the next prime minister do his/her job unfettered. Georgia cannot afford political and governmental paralysis.

Dr. Paul Stronski, Senior Fellow at Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

There has been friction between the now former Prime Minister and Ivanishvili for some time. And, the wave of protests in Tbilisi over the past months indicates there is a large segment of the population that is unhappy with the status quo, even if the actual causes of those protests – the drugs raids and the killing of those teenagers – were about more narrow issues. So, I expect that the protests also played a role in this. Georgia’s economy is struggling, although not all of it is due to Kvirikashvili. There has been a general downturn in the region, which certainly impacts Georgia’s economic health. But sounds like Kvirikashvili was frustrated with Ivanishvili’s behind the scenes’ criticism and efforts. I am not sure whether it is “democratic” for the party chairman to take charge or not. But, formalizing and institutionalizing his role – instead of it being shadowy and behind the scenes – probably is a good thing. In theory, it should make him more accountable. The resignation will cause problems to Georgian Dream. It highlights the internal squabbles, but it is unclear to me how this will play out over the long-term and what this means for the Georgian dream for the long-term period.

Ambassador John Herbst, Director of the Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Giorgi Kvirikashvili is a skilled leader who did excellent work as Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister. While on paper the Prime Minister is the most powerful politician in Georgia, under the current arrangements, that is not the case. This is an unusual situation that should be fixed. Mr. Kvirikashvili’s departure seems to be a reaction to the protests sweeping Tbilisi for the last two weeks. It is not clear that the resignation will persuade the protestors to stop.

Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz, Global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Director of Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program

I would just begin by saying that I was caught by a surprise by developments, but on the other hand, this was a warning signal. The recent demonstrations about the murder of the young man clearly shook the government. And what concerns me most now is that the government seems to be directed from outside, this is something that is concerning for a long time. The great influence for the individual, sort of messiah, who exercises too much control over the government process. Mr. Ivanishvili I am sure has good intentions and good ideas but he is not a prime minister and he is not above the process. And yet that seems to be what is happening here. I want to see Georgia that has stable government and institutions and people in office being allowed to do their jobs. This to me is single most worrisome aspect of what is going on.

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