The chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has once again declined to re-enter frontline politics, remaining absent from the party’s electoral list for 31 October’s parliamentary elections.
Ivanishvili was the opening speaker at the party’s announcement event in Tbilisi on Thursday, where the top 20 members from the party list were unveiled.
Ivanishvili, who founded the party in 2012 and served a short stint as PM, has since been reluctant to take up any official position beyond leading the party.
Prime Minister and close Ivanishvili ally Giorgi Gakharia, Parliamentary Speaker Archil Talakvadze, Executive Secretary Irakli Kobakhidze, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, and parliamentary majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze topped the list.
The list included only five women, the bare minimum required under a new gender quota.
The quota, which requires that every fourth candidate on a party list be of the opposite gender as the previous three, was part of a package of electoral reforms passed in June.
The party previously nominated only one woman among 30 candidates running in majoritarian districts, which the gender quota does not apply to.
Georgian Dream named Archil Talakvadze as their candidate for speaker of parliament once again.
‘Georgian Dream are not presenting a candidate for prime minister, we are naming the future prime minister’, Irakli Kobakhidze said while introducing Gakharia.
Gakharia held several senior government positions before being appointed as Georgia’s Prime Minister a year ago.
Beyond the top spots, 12 of the 20 listed members were new members of Georgian Dream as well as several newcomers to politics. These included former basketball player Viktor Sanikidze and rugby player Davit Kacharava.
A popular candidate
While the ruling party has enjoyed a strong lead in recent opinion polls, current PM Giorgi Gakharia would need the support of 76 of 150 MPs in order to be reconfirmed and form a government.
Georgian Dream leaders including Gakharia, Kobakhidze, and Mdinaradze, dealt directly with public outcry following the invitation in June 2019 of Communist Russian Duma MP Sergey Gavrilov to speak before Parliament. The invitation led to large street protests in June.
Most critics accused Giorgi Gakharia, who was then the Interior Minister, of being directly responsible for the excessive use of force by police to prevent protesters from entering the Parliament building on the night of 20 June. The allegation was largely confirmed by the Public Defender’s report earlier this year.
Despite the criticism, he was confirmed as PM in early September last year and has maintained a relatively high personal popularity rating in a series of recent surveys by NDI and IRI.