Right-libertarian Girchi party leader Zurab Japaridze said on December 4 he will be parting ways with Iago Khvichia, Vakhtang Megrelishvili and Aleksandre Rakviashvili, senior party officials, after Khvichia’s remarks siding with child pornography suspect.
In his social media post, Khvichia slammed the police for arresting a suspect caught downloading and watching pornographic content involving minors, saying he saw how the alleged acts amounted to a crime. The post stirred a heated controversy both within his party, and among the wider public.
But Japaridze said there were “many reasons” behind the decision, not the contents of Khvichia’s remarks, hinting about other disagreements and rifts taking place among the party leadership.
“I do not plan to stop, Girchi has its key battles ahead,” Japaridze stated, implying he will be remaining in the party.
But none of the other three leaders seem to be willing to leave the party either. Fellow party members found Japaridze’s laconic statement confusing, arguing it lacked clarity on how the party would be managed.
“I cannot see how any of the named [three] persons can leave Girchi. I hope overall that by this Zura Japaridze meant he will continue with the usual work the party, albeit without communicating with me, Vakho [Megrelishvili], or someone else,” Khvichia commented on Japaridze’s decision.
On their part, Megrelishvili and Rakviashvili stated that Japaridze demanded from them a day earlier to consult him prior to making statements on “controversial topics.” Megrelishvili reckoned, however, that Khvichia’s controversial remarks could not have been the real reason for the party leader’s decision to split.
Some of the notorious Girchi members have openly sided with Japaridze, demanding Khvichia and Megrelishvili to leave. One of the Girchi founders, former MP Goga Khachidze publicly voiced support for Japaridze, and harshly criticized Khvichia for “repeatedly” making “untimely” and “tactless” statements, damaging the party’s image and discouraging its supporters.
The Girchi party participated independently in parliamentary elections for the first time on October 31, 2020 and received 2.89% of votes, securing four parliamentary mandates, and landed surprising 3rd place by popular vote in the capital city of Tbilisi. Japaridze, Khvichia and Megrelishvili, are among the elected MPs, but as all other opposition forces they have been rejecting the election outcome and refusing to enter the new parliament.
Zurab Japaridze, Goga Khachidze, Pavle Kublashvili and Giorgi Meladze, MPs who had left the United National Movement party, among others, founded Girchi in 2015 as a right-libertarian party.