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Alasania made a small mistake, Ivanishvili says

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 25
On Wednesday Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili responded to speculations over Defense Minister Irakli Alasania and former Deputy Foreign Minister Nikoloz Vashakidze. Ivanishvili stressed that removing Alasania from the post of Vice-Premier was due to a “small mistake made by Alasania” concerning the presidential candidacy. Regarding Vashakidze the PM admitted that the Deputy Foreign Minister failed to respond to serious issues before Ivanishvili’s Armenian trip.

Alasania had been both Defense Minister and Vice Premier until Ivanishvili relieved him of the latter post on Tuesday. Alasania has stated the decision to leave the post of Vice Premier was mutually agreed upon with Prime Minister Ivanishvili. He added that by doing this he can fully concentrate on his tasks as Defense Minister. However the United National Movement (UNM) has interpreted the move differently and claims that the cabinet shakeup has to do with Georgia's foreign policy. For his part Nikoloz Vashakidze has stated that the reason for his resignation was that the new Georgian government is changing Georgia's political orientation towards Russia. The UNM has suggested that Alasania, like Vashakidze, is pro-Western and the coalition’s foreign policy steps might be unacceptable for him.

Ivanishvili responded to these rumors by explaining why Alasania left the post of Vice Premier.

According to Ivanishvili, Alasania made a “small mistake” by discussing his candidacy for the presidential election (scheduled for October 2013) with members of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats party, which forms part of the Georgian Dream coalition.

“However, his party members spread this information and I was even asked about this issue in Yerevan…there were rumors that Alasania would be the coalition’s presidential candidate but discussion of this issue has not even begun inside the coalition.” Ivanishvili said. The Prime Minister added that this elementary mistake does not diminish Alasania’s role and authority in the coalition.

Ivanishvili repeated that that Vashakidze was not dismissed from his post but added that Vashakidze felt he was disliked by the Prime Minister. Before his visit to Armenia the Prime Minister met Vashakidze two times to better prepare for the trip.

“I knew that [in Yerevan] I would be asked about the reopening of the Abkhazian railway. Vashakidze promised me that he would be ready to debrief me concerning this issue a week before the visit. His response to a very serious issue was not serious.” Ivanishvili said. He then added that speculation that Vashakidze's departure from the ministry was somehow connected with Georgia's foreign policy was a mere “childish rumor”.

The Prime Minister's decision was described as acceptable by coalition members, including Alasania. “If I make some mistake the Prime Minister has the right to publicly criticize me,” Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani stated.

The UNM claim that Alasania meekly accepted his punishment in a cowardly fashion. “Ivanishvili treats his cabinet as people who must slavishly obey him and Alasania’s step when he obediently took Ivanishvili’s punishing decision proves this.” UNM MP Goka Gabashvili said.

Political analyst Tornike Sharashenidze thinks that Alasania’s dismissal might be a “bad signal.” He states that he is not interested in the reasons of Alasania’s dismissal.

“I am interested in whether his demotion is connected with Georgia’s foreign course or not,” Sharashenidze said.

PM’s open response concerning the reason was welcomed by military analyst Giorgi Tavdgiridze who thinks that Ivanishvili’s action suggests a different kind of politics from the UNM.

“UNM has always hidden mistakes that brought the country to disastrous outcomes. Ivanishvili’s position was right when he publicly spoke about the mistake and informed the public about the real reasons [for Alasania and Vashakidze's departure].” Tavdgiridze said.

Fellow military analyst Koba Liklikadze thinks that after the PM’s decision Alasania might become a point of attack for the opposition “as the weakest point in the cabinet.”