Georgian Foreign Minister Resigns
November 05, 2014
by RFE/RL's Georgian Service
Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze has resigned a day after Defense Minister Irakli Alasania was dismissed, revealing growing rifts in the ruling coalition two years after it rose to power.
Panjikidze announced her resignation on November 5 and said she was quitting the Georgian Dream coalition as well as Democratic Georgia, a party founded by former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and now chaired by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
'As we see that not only our future activities but also achievements we have made so far are endangered, we decided to [resign],' Panjikidze, whose four deputies also quit, said at a news conference.
Garibashvili dismissed Panjikidze's ally Alasania on November 4, hours after the defense chief called recent arrests and charges against military brass an 'attack on Georgia's Euro-Atlantic choice' -- a reference to NATO and EU aspirations in Georgia -- and said they were 'obviously politically motivated.'
The state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Aleksi Petriashvili, who is a member of Alasania's party, resigned on November 4 after Alasania's dismissal.
The shakeup raises the prospect of new political instability in the Caucasus nation, a foe of Russia and a conduit for Western-bound energy supplies from the Caspian Sea, and could cause concern in the United States and the European Union.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland urged all parties in Georgia to work 'towards stability, unity, demonstrated commitment to due process and the rule of law, and public confidence in democratic institutions,' and to 'focus on future for the country that is firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic institutions.'
Speaking to the media on November 5, Norland said that there were 'legitimate' concerns the judicial system is being used in 'a politicized way.'
Alasania, whose Free Democrats party is part of Georgian Dream, said after his dismissal that the country was in political crisis and urged efforts to avoid deepening the divisions.
He said that he 'absolutely' did not see the coalition in its current configuration in the next parliamentary elections in 2016.
Billionaire tycoon Ivanishvili upended Georgian politics by leading Georgian Dream to victory over longtime President Mikheil Saakashvili's ruling party in 2012 parliamentary elections.
He served as prime minister before handing the reins to Garibashvili in November 2013.
There have been signs of growing rivalry and discord, including a war of words between Garibashvili and President Giorgi Margvelashvili in September.
Alasania's firing came after five current and former senior military officials were arrested late last month on suspicion of misspending more than $2.3 million in state funds and three army medical officers were charged with negligence that led to the food poisoning of hundreds of servicemen last year.
Speaking to Georgian journalists in Vienna on November 4, Margvelashvili said there was a 'crisis' in the Georgian Dream coalition.
He said 'political confrontation' posed a 'threat to the efficient functioning' of Georgia's state institutions and to closer integration with Western structures.
Alasania is married to a sister of Panjikidze.
Both had held their positions since Georgian Dream formed a government in October 2012 after defeating Saakashvili's United National Movement.
Georgian Dream's victory was fueled partly by accusations that Saakashvili had abandoned the rule of law, but the current government has faced similiar accusations.
The United States has repeatedly urged it to avoid using the justice system as a political lever.
Last week, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stressed 'the importance of due process and rule of law and of conducting investigations with transparency to avoid even the perception that the judicial system is being used for political retribution.'
Panjikidze said that her four deputies -- Davit Zalkaliani, Tamar Beruchashvili, Davit Jalagania, and Vladimer Gurgenidze -- also resigned.
Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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