Who might become the next president of Georgia in the autumn elections?
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze has announced that the ruling Georgian Dream party will not be putting forward a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in October.
He noted that there are few candidates among the ranks of Georgian Dream who would ‘receive a decent result’ in the presidential elections. Although the ruling party has a constitutional majority in parliament and heads the majority of self-governing bodies in the country, the PM said that: “It would be better for our country if Georgian Dream did not put forward its own candidate for the presidential elections.”
The party’s final position will be announced in the coming days.
Former prime minister of the country and chairman of the Georgian Dream party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, had spoken earlier on 24 July in a TV interview regarding the matter.
Who will the opposition put forward?
Currently, opposition parties have put forward two candidates.
The European Georgia party (created by former members of Mikheil Saakashvili’s ‘United National Movement’ in the beginning of 2016) has put forward David Bakradze as its candidate. He was the parliamentary speaker during Saakashvili’s presidency.
The United National Movement has entered into an alliance with nine smaller opposition parties and have nominated Grigol Vashadze, the former minister of foreign affairs from 2008 to 2012.
There has been speculation that the former speaker of parliament (2012 – 2016) and the former head of the Republican Party David Usupashvili will also run for president. He has publicly stated his desire to discuss the matter with current president Giorgi Margvelashvili.
Will Salome Zurabishvili be a candidate?
In the beginning of July, the Georgian media speculated that the Georgian Dream party will support the candidacy of independent candidate and MP, Salome Zurabishvili.
After Ivanishvili stated that the Georgian Dream party may not put forward a candidate, party members sounded off positively on Zurabishvili.
“Salome Zurabishvili is well-respected in the country, abroad and in parliament. If she decides to run, she will be one of the strongest candidates,” said Archil Talakvadze, the leader of the parliament majority, on 25 July. However, the party has still not definitively decided.
Salome Zurabishvili has so far left journalists’ questions as to her candidacy unanswered, saying she will make a public statement next week.
Zurabishvili was born in France and has worked in the French diplomatic service. From 2003 to 2004 she was the ambassador of France to Georgia. President Mikheil Saakashvili gave her Georgian citizenship in 2004 and named her minister of foreign affairs. Zurabishvili was dismissed in October 2005 because of a conflict with the then-ruling party. Since then, she has been in opposition with the Saakashvili camp.
In October 2016, Zurabishvili was elected as an independent MP from the Mtatsminda district of Tbilisi, where the ruling party chose not to put forward a candidate.
The Georgian constitution says that a president may not hold citizenship of another country. Zurabishvili has not responded to journalists’ questions about whether or not she will give up her French citizenship should she run for president.
The presidential elections in Georgia will take place in October. The exact date is as of yet unknown, but will be announced by the current president. According to the constitution, the Georgian president has limited powers, and for the most part carries out representative functions, and also partially participates in foreign policy. The current elections will be the last time the public votes directly for the president. Thereafter, the president will be appointed by members of parliament.