TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s ruling party on Saturday elected former party secretary Irakli Kobakhidze as new chairman, after its billionaire founder stepped down.
The choice of a new leader and new composition of the political council at the party convention are important developments for the party that came to power in 2012 and secured election in 2016 and 2020, since strongman Bidzina Ivanishvili recently announced his retirement from politics altogether.
Ivanishvili had personally lobbied for the appointment of Kobakhidze, who previously served as secretary general of Georgian Dream, and the nomination of new party chairman was approved “unanimously”. With his promotion to party chairman, the 42-year-old will have the upper hand over his adversaries inside the party ranks and control the entire party apparatus and its vast resources.
Kobakhidze, who had to resign from the post as speaker of parliament in 2018 due tothe “Gavrilov Night” events, was the head of the election headquarters of Georgian Dream in the October 31, 2020 elections. The victory in the elections was likely the reason why Bidzina Ivanishvili named him as his political successor.
According to many commentators and former party members, Ivanishvili’s choice rests only on Kobakhidze’s strong allegiance to him. Otherwise, they claim, it seems strange as Kobakhidze enjoys less support among rank-and-file GD supporters than other party heavyweights , including Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze.
Former director of the Public Broadcaster Vasil Maglaperidze was unexpectedly elected as Kobakhidze’s deputy. He was the governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency, but later joined the opposition and supported Bidzina Ivanishvili in the 2012 benchmark elections.
Kakha Kaladze was re-elected to the position as party secretary general. He is widely considered as one of the main competitors of Irakli Kobakhidze for the leadership of Georgian Dream. Each of them complimented the other in their respective addresses.
“Irakli Kobakhidze is the one who can lead our party in its best interests,” Kaladze said.
In response, Kobakhidze said he was “really proud” to be introduced by “a real champion and leader with such words”, emphasizing the football career of Kakha Kaladze, former left back at AC Milan.
However, Kobakhidze expressed most gratitude toward Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was not present at the convention.
“I would like to begin my speech by saying thanks, thanks to Bidzina Ivanishvili. In 2012, Bidzina Ivanishvili defeated a regime based on lies and violence and laid the foundation for a new democratic order that brought freedom, peace and security to our country and people,” Kobakhidze said.
Nevertheless, many commentators think that after Ivanishvili’s departure, a real power struggle will begin between the various factions within Georgian Dream. Many think that the first “victim” in this battle may be Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who is predicted to resign in the spring.
Georgian Dream members flatly deny these allegations and claim there is no tension in the party.
In parallel with the congress, young opposition activists held a small rally, which was dispersed by police. Several of the activists were arrested.