Georgian Dream Recalls MP Popkhadze from Legal Affairs Committee

The Georgian Dream party has recalled MP Gedevan Popkhadze from the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. He will automatically lose the post of the deputy chair of the Committee.

The decision comes less than a week after the Committee elected MP Popkhadze as the first deputy chair in defiance of the parliamentary leadership, including Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze.

It also takes place within the context of ongoing intra-party dispute over the appointment of Supreme Court judges, which saw the resignation of the Committee chair, Eka Beselia. Gedevan Popkhadze and Eka Beselia are close political allies.

Positions taken

The decision was announced on January 3, after the meeting of the Georgian Dream faction in the party headquarters. GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili was present at the gathering, but has not engaged with the media.

MP Gedevan Popkhadze told reporters after the meeting that he does not intend to challenge the decision. “The question is not about who will be the chair or the deputy chair, but about how the Parliament will carry out the appointment of the Supreme Court judges; that’s what’s important,” he said.

MP Levan Gogichaishvili commented on the decision as well. “Endorsement of Chinchaladze, Murusidze and other executioner judges of Saakashvili and Adeishvili is the dividing line… I won’t support their candidacies and we will oppose the process,” the lawmaker said.

MP Eka Beselia, who is on a visit to the UK on January 3-4, commented on the decision as well, saying it was a retribution for Popkhadze’s support of Beselia. “This is a punitive measure, because he voiced the same position as I have on the court-related matters,” she noted.

According to media reports, the GD faction was to deliberate on Beselia’s dismissal as well, but decided to postpone the discussion as the lawmaker is currently abroad.

Assessments differed in another group of Georgian Dream lawmakers.

According to Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, there were two reasons for the decision: that Popkhadze was elected without prior agreement in the party, and in “gross” violation of the Parliament’s rules of procedure.

Kobakhidze added, apparently in response to Beselia, that linking of Popkhadze’s dismissal and her resignation to the appointment of Supreme Court judges, was “either because of lack of information, or a political speculation.”

“As for Beselia’s resignation, we have partially touched upon about when, why and how the decision was taken, and we can speak about it in more detail before the public,” he noted.

MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, chair of the GD faction, echoed Kobakhidze’s points, saying Popkhadze’s election was not team-based, and in violation of Parliamentary regulations.

The lawmaker also explained that the decision to recall Popkhadze was “practically unanimous,” and that Bidzina Ivanishvili’s position was “in line with the position of nearly absolute majority of faction members.”

Timeline of prior developments

On December 24, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body overseeing the judiciary, submitted the list of ten Supreme Court nominees to the Parliament of Georgia.

Two non-judge Council members and a group of local rights watchdogs, slammed the list of nominations, saying the process was not transparent. Opposition parties and some ruling party lawmakers joined public criticism against the proposed list.

Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said on December 26 that the Parliament would not deliberate on the issue in the ongoing session, and would return to it later, in the Spring session.

MP Eka Beselia announced her resignation on December 27, and spoke publicly against the list of Supreme Court nominations. She stressed the list had to be recalled rather than be suspended, as announced by Speaker Kobakhidze.

Beselia and Kobakhidze held a meeting on December 28. Beselia said they had “differences of opinion,” including on the procedures of electing the first deputy chair (and the acting chair) of the Legal Affairs Committee, the lead committee for Supreme Court nominations.

On December 31, the Legal Affairs Committee elected MP Gedevan Popkhadze as the first deputy chair. Speaker Kobakhidze and several other lawmakers slammed the decision, saying it was not team-based and was done in violation of Parliamentary rules of procedure.

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