Seven out of ten lawmakers from Free Democrats (FD) faction have quit the Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority group, but three of them remain in the GD coalition allowing the latter to keep majority with 76 MPs in 150-seat Parliament.
FD, which was one of the founding members of Georgian Dream, quit the coalition after its leader Irakli Alasania was sacked from defense minister’s post.
Among those three MPs who have refused to follow suit and decided to stay in the GD parliamentary majority group are: Gedevan Popkhadze, deputy chairman of human rights committee; Tamaz Japaridze, a majoritarian MP from Oni single-mandate constituency, and Gela Samkharauli, a majoritarian MP from Telavi single-mandate constituency.
MP Popkhadze announced about his decision to quit FD and stay with GD on Friday evening. Had he opted otherwise and quit GD, the latter would have been left with 75 MPs, one short of threshold required for forming a formal majority group.
Four of the Free Democrats faction members hold senior parliamentary posts, which they plan to retain even though quitting the majority group. MP Zurab Abashidze is a vice-speaker of the Parliament; MP Viktor Dolidze chairs parliamentary committee for European integration; MP Davit Onoprishvili is chairman of the parliamentary committee for finance and budgetary issues, and MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili chairs parliamentary committee for environment protection and natural resources.
Leader of the Free Democrats party, ex-defense minister Irakli Alasania, met on November 7 with parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili.
Alasania told journalists after the meeting that he briefed the parliament speaker about the process of handing over his defense ministerial portfolio to his successor Mindia Janelidze and also discussed recent political developments.
“We also discussed the [decision] of our [FD] faction to quit the majority group. We also noted that it is important to carry out processes in a way that will make the state stronger rather than damage it. So, state interests will be a cornerstone for all the political forces, both the majority group and for us,” Alasania said.
On November 8 the Free Democrats party 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.
Up until now the parliamentary majority group was made up of lawmakers from those six parties, which were united in the Georgian Dream coalition. After Free Democrats’ withdrawal from the coalition, the majority group is left with five factions, plus those three MPs, who have opted to quit Free Democrats and to remain with the GD.
Parliamentary faction of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, party founded by ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and now chaired by PM Irakli Garibashvili, is the largest one within the majority group with 46 lawmakers; GD-Republicans faction has 9 lawmakers; GD-Conservatives, GD-National Forum and GD-Industrialists factions have 6 members each; it is not yet clear which factions within the majority group three former FD MPs will join.
UNM opposition party forms the parliamentary minority group with 51 lawmakers.
Six MPs are united in a faction of independent majoritarians, which is neither part of parliamentary majority nor minority groups, but the faction is more inclined, although not always, towards supporting government proposals.
Remaining ten MPs are independent lawmakers, some of them who quit UNM and others who quit GD, and who are not united now in any of the factions or groups; one of them, Koba Davitashvili, is only nominally a member of parliament and in fact he does not even participate in parliamentary work after announcing about quitting the politics last year.
Speaking with journalists on November 6, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, who is from the Republican Party, one of the five remaining parties in the GD coalition, said that withdrawal of FD from the GD may create some difficulties for the ruling coalition, but also noted presence of “informal majority” in the parliament – he was referring to GD majority, plus those lawmakers, who although formally are not part of either parliamentary majority or minority groups, but are usually more inclined towards voting in line with the GD coalition.
“Nothing good has happened, but there is nothing disastrous either that can paralyze the majority,” Usupashvili said, adding that even without these recent developments the sitting Parliament was anyway “distinguished” from the previous ones with its diversity, which, he said, required much effort to reach agreements with various factions. He said that FD’s withdrawal will make this process even harder.
After Alasania was sacked from defense minister’s post, 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.