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Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili Resigns Ahead of Elections

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili Resigns Ahead of Elections

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has announced his resignation, paving the way for a significant political reshuffle in the run-up to parliamentary elections later this year. Garibashvili, who has served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister of Georgia, attributed his decision to the ruling party's "internal democratic principle of rotation" and the need to prepare for the upcoming elections.

The ruling Georgian Dream party is set to name its chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, as Garibashvili's successor. In a unique swap, Garibashvili will take over as the party leader, with the official announcement scheduled for February 1.

During a televised address, Garibashvili emphasized the importance of providing opportunities for other leaders within the party, stating, "There are many successful leaders in the team, and it's important for others to be given an opportunity."

The political maneuver comes amid rising expectations of a government reshuffle, fueled by the return of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling party, to a more active political role in December 2023. Ivanishvili's resurgence sparked rumors of Garibashvili's potential removal from office, driven by accusations of corruption.

Garibashvili had previously succeeded Ivanishvili as prime minister in 2013. Despite Ivanishvili's earlier retirement from politics in 2021, he continued to wield influence within the party, prompting questions about the true power dynamics in Georgian politics.

As Georgia aims for a fourth consecutive victory in the parliamentary elections, Ivanishvili clarified that his return is not solely to bolster the party but to safeguard its leadership from potential corruption and internal conflicts.

The political developments in Georgia take place against the backdrop of the country's aspirations for European Union membership. Georgia, recognized as an EU membership candidate country since November 2023, faces benchmarks set by the Commission, including the requirement to hold free, fair, and competitive elections.

Critics, including opposition parties, argue that Ivanishvili's influence hampers Georgia's progress toward EU membership. The government's past attempts, such as proposing a Putin-style law, have drawn criticism for authoritarian tendencies and alleged appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the aftermath of Garibashvili's resignation, the Georgian parliament will have two weeks to approve a new government, setting the stage for a crucial period in the lead-up to the parliamentary elections later this year.

Meanwhile, in a recent diplomatic move, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan engaged in discussions with Georgian officials last week. Both leaders signed an agreement elevating their bilateral relations to strategic cooperation, underlining the historically robust alliance between the two countries. Security considerations in the South Caucasus region took center stage, emphasizing joint efforts to foster peace and stability for mutual benefit.

Looking beyond the region, global political calendars mark significant events in 2024. The Russian presidential election is scheduled for March 15-17, 2024, and the 2024 United States elections are set to be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2024. Closer to home, Georgia is expected to hold a parliamentary election on October 26, 2024, and Azerbaijan is set to have its presidential election on February 7, 2024.


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