Who’s Who in Gakharia’s New Old Team?
Former Georgian Dream Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who shook up Georgian politics with his not-so-unexpected resignation in February, inaugurated a new “For Georgia” political party. “We are uniting for Georgia but against no one,” said Gakharia on May 29, at the inaugural party congress.
Civil.ge had a closer look into the records of members of For Georgia’s Political Council, largely composed of former technocrats and newcomers to Georgian politics.
- Giorgi Gakharia, 46 – Moscow’s Lomonosov University graduate, Gakharia has years-long international experience in the private sector, having served as a Business Development Director for Eastern Europe/Russia/CIS in Lufthansa Service Holding before joining the Georgian Dream Government as a Business Ombudsman in 2013. Despite pushing some rights reforms during his tenure as Interior Minister in 2017-19, Gakharia became a highly polarizing figure in Georgian politics following a violent dispersal of June 20, 2019 anti-occupation protests, which injured hundreds. Following week-long protests demanding his resignation, Gakharia was controversially elevated as Prime Minister in September 2019, where he was partially able to improve his public favorability after widely-perceived successful handling of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic under his leadership. He resigned on February 18, 2021, citing disagreement with his GD party colleagues over the detention of the opposition leader Nika Melia.
- Natia Mezvrishvili, 35 – Probably one of the better-known faces in Gakharia’s party, a lawyer by training Mezvrishvili has a rich experience in public office, having served at different positions in the state agencies for more than 13 years. Mezvrishvili was appointed as the Government Administration Head in October 2019, soon after becoming PM Gakharia’s Chief of Staff. She also served from 2017 as the Deputy Interior Minister, during Giorgi Gakharia‘s tenure at the Ministry. Mezvrishvili announced her decision to leave the Government Administration Head post several months before Gakharia’s resignation, particularly thanking him for “the faith and the given possibility.” The rumors had it that her resignation owed to the Georgian Dream leadership blocking her Justice Ministerial bid after the troubled October elections.
- Konstantine Ananiashvili, 40 – A lawyer by training, Ananiashvili has vast experience of working in the Interior Ministry, where he held various high-ranking positions from 2005 to 2021, including the police chief of south-western Adjara and east-central Shida Kartli regions. Almost exclusively Interior Ministry’s cadre throughout his career, Ananiashvili was named as Head of the Regional Liaison Department of the Government Administration in February, only to witness his boss Giorgi Gakharia resign in some two weeks after the appointment. Ananiashvili left the post soon afterward and joined Gakharia’s new political party.
- Ana Buchukuri, 30 – Yet another lawyer in Gakharia’s team, incumbent MP Buchukuri commenced her career in Public Defender’s Office. At different times, she served at the Ministries of Justice and Economy, while subsequently moving to the Interior Ministry under Gakharia’s tenure as Minister. Buchukuri followed Gakharia when he ascended to the premiership, serving at different positions in the Government Administration. Buchukuri made the ruling Georgian Dream’s proportional-party list for the October Elections as number 56. She was one of the six GD MPs who quit the party after Gakharia’s resignation.
- Kakhaber Kemoklidze, 36 – Master of European Studies from the University of Leiden and security guru in the new team. Kemoklidze was the shortest-serving Head of Government Administration who resigned in the footsteps of former PM Gakharia approximately a month after his appointment. Kemoklidze is a close associate of the former PM, having worked with him as the Chief of Staff of Georgia’s National Security Council (NSC) and as the Director of Information-Analytical Department of the Interior Ministry, during Gakharia’s tenure as Minister. Earlier, he held various high-ranking posts in the Ministry of Interior and State Security Service of Georgia (SSG), also being Interior Ministry’s special representative at the Geneva International Discussions (GID) – the multilateral forum to address security and humanitarian consequences of the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008. Last but not least, Mr. Kemoklidze and his “useless lecture” of 2017 apparently served as an inspiration for ex-Reconciliation Minister Paata Zakareishvili, tasked with overseeing occupied regions, to write his latest book about his vision on conflicts and ministerial tenure.
- Giorgi Goguadze, 28 – The youngest member of For Georgia’s political council, Goguadze is the latest in Georgia’s CSO-leader-turned-politician list. Tbilisi State University’s International Relations bachelor, Goguadze kicked off his career at Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS), a multi-profile think tank co-founded by former MPs Sergi Kapanadze and Elene Khoshtaria, among others, in October 2012, after the Georgian Dream replaced UNM administration. Goguadze, who specializes in IR, security, and terrorism studies, gives lectures at Tbilisi State University. He was the Director of the Tbilisi-based Georgian Center for Strategy and Development (GCSD) from 2019 to 2021 and founded the Terrorism Research Center (TRC) in 2017. Rumor has it that Kemoklidze helped to attract him to the new team.
- Mikheil Daushvili, 30 – Master of Business Law, MP Mikheil Daushvili is yet another technocrat in Gakharia’s team who began his public service career in the Ministry of Economy. From 2017 to 2019, Daushvili served at different positions in the Interior Ministry, including during Gakharia’s tenure as Minister. In November 2019, PM Gakharia appointed him as Business Ombudsman, where he served for slightly less than a year. Daushvili was among the six MPs to quit GD to join Gakharia’s forthcoming party.
- Rusudan Tevzadze, 47 – Environment and social security expert Rusudan Tevzadze is another new face in Georgian politics introduced by Gakharia’s For Georgia. Tevzadze has rich experience in the academic life, gives lectures at Tbilisi State University, and serves as consulting specialist at different institutions. She is also the Chancellor of the Tbilisi-based Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film State University. Tevzadze was an outspoken supporter of the Georgian Dream before joining Gakharia’s party, even stating several months before Gakharia’s resignation that since 2012, we have “a practically flawless, humane government [sic!].”
- Shalva Kereselidze, 46 – A member of Gakharia’s economic team, incumbent MP Shalva Kereselidze’s career almost exclusively revolved around the public sector, from President’s Administration to the Ministry of Agriculture. In 2018-2020, Kereselidze served as a governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, and in October was elected as Georgian Dream majoritarian for Mtskheta, Dusheti, Tianeti, and Kazbegi constituency. Kereselidze was one of the six GD MPs who quit the ruling party after Gakharia’s resignation.
- Beka Liluashvili, 29 – One more economist in Gakharia’s team, incumbent MP Beka Liluashvili is a newbie in Georgian politics. Master of Finances at International Black Sea University, Gülen-affiliated private institution in Tbilisi, Liluashvili moved from the private to the public service in 2014. From 2014 to 2020, he worked at different positions in the Ministries of Economy and Interior Affairs. Gakharia appointed Liluashvili as an aide in economy in 2020. Liluashvili was part of the Georgian Dream’s proportional list for 2020 Parliamentary Elections but left the party after Gakharia’s resignation to join the former PM’s new party.
- Aleksandre Motserelia, 48 – A physicist by training, incumbent MP Motserelia seems to have never worked with his degree. Migrating between private and public sectors, Motserelia started working as Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti governor in 2018 under Mamuka Bakhtadze’s premiership and occupied the post until August 2020. He was elected as Georgian Dream majoritarian for Tsalenjikha, Chkhorotsku, Martvili, and Abasha constituency in October 2020 parliamentary elections. Motserelia was one of the six GD MPs who quit the ruling party after Gakharia’s resignation.
- Berdia Sichinava, 31 – He served as Deputy Chief of the Government Administration from 2019 to 2021, before submitting the resignation in the footsteps of Gakharia’s departure. Sichinava previously worked in the Interior Ministry as Head of the Main Division of the General Inspection and as a prosecutor in Kvemo Kartli District Prosecutor’s Office.
- Giga Parulava, 32 – Master of Law, Parulava spent his entire career at Zugdidi Municipality, where he worked at different positions from 2014 to 2021. In 2019, he was appointed as the First Deputy of Zugdidi Mayor. Parulava left the post soon after Gakharia’s resignation from the Premier Minister’s post and joined his new party.
- Giorgi Sharashidze, 44 – Mba of the University of Manchester, Giorgi Sharashidze is another newcomer in politics. A well-known figure in Georgian journalism, Sharashidze is a founder and editor-in-chief of several magazines, including Georgia Today and Entrepreneur. Besides, Sharashidze gives lectures and runs online courses in strategic management and entrepreneurship.
- Giorgi Khojevanishvili, 36 – Doctor of Social Science, MP Giorgi Khojevanishvili made first steps in public service in the Ministry of Corrections where he ultimately served as the Head of International Relations Department. From 2013, Khojevanishvili moved to the private sector, serving five years as a lawyer at one of the largest telecommunications companies in Georgia – Magticom. Khojevanishvili made comeback to public office as a Governor of Shida Kartli in 2018. Elected as Georgian Dream Majoritarian of Gori and Kaspi municipalities in October 2020, Khojevanishvili was one of the six GD MPs who quit the party after Gakharia’s resignation. He is a brother of Aleksandre Khojevanishvili, the former Deputy Security Service Head, who also resigned from his post several weeks after Gakharia’s departure.
Besides the party members introduced by Gakharia, the inaugural congress was also attended by Kakhaber Sabanadze, former Deputy Interior Minister, who was recently accused of giving controversial orders on June 20, 2019, and Aleksandre Khojevanishvili, former Deputy Head of the State Security Service (SSG), – both of them resigned from their posts after Gakharia’s departure as a Prime Minister. Some well-known public faces could also be detected at the congress, including former Georgian national team football players, brothers Archil and Revaz Arveladze.