Georgian opposition party Girchi splinters after ‘internal disagreements’
Georgian opposition political party Girchi [Geo. pinecone] has splintered, after Zurab Japaridze, one of the founders and leaders of the movement, wrote on Facebook a post that he is stopping cooperation with other leaders of the party – Iago Khvichia, Vakho Megrelishvili and Sandro Rakviashvili.
Japaridze does not talk about the reason for this decision, but says there were many.
Japaridze’s decision was preceded by a scandal in which the party found itself due to the statement of one of its leaders, Iago Khvichia.
The politician reacted to the arrest of a man accused of possessing illicit pornography with minors.
In his Facebook post, Khvichia wrote that the person who downloaded and opened the file with child pornography did not commit a crime and does not deserve punishment.
Khvichia’s opinions provoked a violent reaction in society and sharp disagreements in the Girchi party itself. Nino Darsavelidze, one of the founders and sponsors of the party, demanded a general meeting be convened. And writer Toresa Mosi announced that he was leaving Girchi.
What is Girchi?
The libertarian Girchi party was created in 2016 after four MPs – Zurab Japaridze, Pavle Kublashvili, Giorgi Khachidze and Giorgi Meladze – left the former ruling United National Movement party.
They created the New Political Center – Girchi, the symbol of which was a green pinecone on a white background – as a symbol of novelty.
In the 2020 parliamentary elections, this party received 2.89 percent of the vote, in the capital – about 8%.
Girchi leader Zurab Japaridze took part in the 2018 presidential elections and received 2.26 percent of the vote in the first round.
Some of the main tenets of Girchi’s political agenda is the free market, deregulation of business, the abolition of labor inspections and other state regulatory bodies, the legalization of drugs, the abolition of compulsory military service and the transition to a fully contract army. The party also calls for the abolition of social benefits and subsidies and advocates for minimal government intervention in the economy.
Girchi differs from traditional Georgian parties in that its supporters are mostly young people supporting libertarian views. The Girchi leaders are active on social media and from time to time carry out extraordinary awareness raising demonstrations.
For example, on New Year’s Eve 2016, Girchi activists demonstratively planted cannabis in the courtyard of their office. In 2018, a marijuana festival was held in Tbilisi, with the Constitutional Court granting Girchi’s claim in the same year and effectively legalized the use of marijuana in the country, canceling the administrative fine.
In April 2017, Girchi registered the religious organization “Georgian Christian, Evangelical, Protestant Church – Biblical Freedom”.
In doing so, it found a way to legally exempt young people from compulsory military service – they are registered as clergymen, and according to the law, they are granted a deferment from conscription.