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Gvaramia transfers Mtavari Arkhi shares to wife in move to politics

29 February 2024
Nika Gvaramia addressing an anti-government demonstration on 17 July 2021 in Tbilisi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media. 

Nika Gvaramia has formally resigned as opposition TV Mtavari Arkhi’s general director, transferring his shares to his wife ahead of his return to politics.

Gvaramia announced his departure from Mtavari Arkhi and the handover of his shares on Wednesday, stating that owning stakes in the channel was ‘incompatible with the party position that I will hold in the coming days’.

‘That’s why I complied with the requirements of the law and transferred the share to my [wife] Sofo [Liluashvili]’, said Gvaramia, who recently announced that he was forming a new political group, Ahali (‘New’).

Giorgi Gabunia, who served as interim director while Gvaramia was in prison, will take over as general director of Mtavari Arkhi with Giorgi Kurdadze and Manuchar Akhalaia serving as directors.

Gvaramia was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in May 2022 on charges of abuse of power as Rustavi 2’s general director, in a case that government critics widely condemned as politically motivated. Gvaramia was pardoned by President Salome Zurabishvili in June 2023.

Prior to founding Mtavari Arkhi in 2019, Gvaramia spent seven years as Rustavi 2’s general director, until its ownership was returned to Kibar Khalvashi, who accused the formerly ruling United National Movement (UNM) government and its leader, imprisoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili, of coercing him into selling the channel.

[Read more: Georgian president pardons Nika Gvaramia]

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During the UNM’s time in power, Gvaramia served as Justice Minister for nine months in 2008, and as Minister of Education and Science between 2008 and 2009.

‘Ahali’

Gvaramia announced his intent to return to Georgian politics in December 2023, going on to announce the establishment of his political group, Ahali, in February, while clarifying that it was ‘not a [political] party’. 

‘We are watching how [the political situation] will develop — if there is talk of unification [of the opposition], we will make a different decision; if there is no talk of unification, at the first stage in any case, then we will see’, Gvaramia told Mtavari Arkhi.

A number of Georgian political leaders have in recent years initially launched ‘platforms’ or ‘groups’, before later officially founding their parties. 

On 20 February, Gvaramia told TV Pirveli that he would announce the composition of his team at the beginning of March. He also claimed that he was consulting with several political parties and figures who had ‘political and social capital’ about potentially joining forces, including former UNM chair Nika Melia, and the opposition Droa and Lelo parties.

‘We can be above 25%’, he said. ‘I have an ambition and aspiration that a unified [opposition], if we can achieve that, will be the biggest challenger to Georgian Dream’.

On 9 February, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze dismissed Gvaramia’s political ambitions as part of the opposition’s ‘inner workings’.

‘We [the ruling Georgian Dream party] have very solid positions for the pre-elections’, said Kobakhidze. ‘The main thing is to maintain and further strengthen our positions, which is necessary to continue our country’s stable development’.

Georgia is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in October, with Georgian Dream ruling out forming a coalition government and opposition groups establishing positions and negotiating coalitions.