Still Far From Clarity

Loose Majority In the Parliament

By George Kalandadze, Tbilisi

There is a new majority is in the Parliament. But this fact does not have to remind us of the best days of the Citizen’s Union. Today’s majority has much more liberal structure is largely issue-based: the member-factions have lots of things to bargain about. However, President Shevardnadze regained control over the parliament and can now use the chance to articulate clearer policies.

Shape of the new majority was clearly exposed during the voting on dismissal of Zhvania’s supporter Giorgi Baramidze from the chairmanship of the Defense and Security committee. The group of factions managed to get 118 votes. Before, the factions claiming to be the new majority were only ‘collecting’ the signatures on paper and for the appeals. But Baramidze’s case, showed that there is a voting muscle behind the group.

Today the following factions can be regarded as more or less firm members of the new majority: “The New Rights”, “Industrialists”, “New Abkhazia and Christian Democrats”, “Abkhazia” and “Majoritarians”, as well as strongly pro-presidential “Tanadgoma” and “Alliance for New Georgia”.

However, to have the majority these political forces will also need participation of factions supporting Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze. United, these factions achieved Baramidze’s dismissal and showed their political opponents, that they can push through the decisions in the Parliament when necessary.

Who is controlling the majority in the Parliament and should we expect official registration of this union as the Majority? Most politicians admit that the majority, exists, and it is clearly pro- Presidential.

President is frequently holding the meetings with most of the factions. In between, he holds consultations with the State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze, who, many analysts say is a new presidential favorite and the policy messenger.

Director of the National Library Levan Berdzenishvili says, “there is no possibility of the President and the State Minister playing independently. Jorbenadze is cooperating with the political parties following Shevardnadze’s instructions and at the same time, will attempt reforms of the executive branch with President’s consent”.

For reshuffling the government cannot only Shevardnadze’s support would not suffice. The State Minister will also need Parliament’s. And to get this support, he will have to satisfy interests of the parliamentary factions.

In present circumstances the State Minister definitely will not have support of so-called “Zhvania’s Team” and Mikheil Saakashvili’s faction. However, Jorbenadze has loyal allies in “New Rights”, leaders of which left “Citizens Union” in 2000 mostly because their unsatisfied ambition to move to the executive.

This faction, which initiated redistribution of the committee posts by collecting 149 signatures, has parliamentary ambitions for only one committee vacancy – chairman of the Defense and Security Committee, quite probably because of importance of this post to Zhvania’s team. This importance was highlighted by Baramidze’s denial to resign voluntarily as all of his colleagues did and the Parliament had to vote for his dismissal.

Limited parliamentary ambitions of the “New Rights” may indicate that they cherish a desire to come to the executive power. Such an ambition could serve as a basis for cooperation between the State Minister and the “New Rights”.

Relations of the President and the State Minister with other parliamentary forces would depend on how much the State Chancellery will satisfy their partisan interests.

For example, the “Industrialists” faction is regarded the most unstable partner in the Parliament. “Industrialists” is largely a single-issue faction. They want the new, liberal tax code and are forming coalitions accordingly. “Industrialists” have sponsored a large expert group for this purpose and spend considerable amount of money to draft the new code.

During Zhvania’s chairmanship, “Industrialists” together with “New Abkhazia” and “Traditionalist” factions were among allied with Zhvania and even joined an alliance.

But after Zhvania lost his post, “Industrialists” changed political sides and even voted against Baramidze few days ago. “Industrialists” would pretty much join any majority, if this would help to pass their tax code. Their personal well-being depends on this issue, because, after all, they are businessmen.

Groups in Abashidze’s “Agordzineba” (“Revival”) block are also forming the new majority expect the “Traditionalists”, who presently refrain from joining any alliance or coalition.

“Agordzineba” was viewed as the main opposition faction when CUG held the majority. Today, position of the “Agordzineba” factions would depend on dynamics of personal relations of Aslan Abashidze and Eduard Shevardnadze.

 “Agordzineba” will be appearing in Shevardnadze’s “Majority” until relations between him and Abashidze are ‘warm’. But it is very likely that on the eve of Parliamentary Elections in 2003, they will leave Shevardnadze’s helm. This is why “Agordzineba” block, which failed to create its own majority during the parliamentary turmoil, is not going to openly be a member of the new majority, but is most likely to join it during the voting.

“Agordzineba” leader Jemal Gogitidze says that “Agordzineba” does not want to be responsible for what was happening in the Parliament before dissolution of the former majority. According to his words, “a team, which will have dominant position after reallocation of power in the Parliament, is to be responsible”.

Demur Giorkhelidze of the “New Abkhazia and Christian Democrats” agrees. The faction recently underwent reorganization and has a new leader. Anzor Tsotsonava, an MP from Abkhazia, was replaced by ex-State Minister Vazha Lortkipanidze, who resigned from the post in May 2000 and returned to the big politics few months ago and pursued Parliamentary Chairmanship, but was defeated by Nino Burjanadze.

“Creation of a new majority or any coalition is complete political shortsightedness. The Parliament will hardly achieve anything so important to make majority membership count during elections in 2003 for any political force” – says Giorkhelidze.