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Ex-minister Okruashvili forms a political party – Winner Georgia

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, June 12
Ex-Georgian official, Irakli Okruashvili has founded a new political party, named Winner Georgia, which is said to oppose the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) founder and Chair Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Okruashvili, who held different posts during the United National Movement government, presented his team of 17 people, which includes Gubaz Sanikidze, former member of the opposition National Forum party, Kote Kemularia, former chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Valeri Gelbakhiani, former lawmaker, comedian actor Nika Ramishvili (Drupi), Guram Chalagashvili, ex-head of Georgian National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission and several others.

“This is not a political structure built on the vertical of one person or several people. We have the ambition to set up a big movement of many angry people, who think that there is an unbearable situation in the country. We will also cooperate with any member of the "Georgian Dream" who will oppose Bidzina Ivanishvili. So, our doors are open for them,” Okruashvili said.

Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of the opposition European Georgia party, ruled out cooperation with Irakli Okruashvili and his party.

“I do not think that setting up Okruashvili's party is a significant fact. As for cooperation - no! We will never cooperate with those political leaders and figures who visit Moscow or participate in the Kremlin propaganda or preach hate and violence,” he said.

Independent MP Eka Beselia, who quit the GD in February, also does not think she will cooperate with Okruashvili.

“This topic is not interesting to me. The only thing I can think is my own party, which will be established on June 20,” she said.

Moreover, Salome Samadashvili from the UNM stated it is possible they will cooperate with the Winner Georgia party, as they “also want to put an end to Ivanishvili’s regime.”

“The National Movement has repeatedly stated that we should concentrate on the future, which is much more important than the past. It is important to confront Bidzina Ivanishvili with united forces and force him to change game rules in the country,” she stated.

Okruashvili served as the Deputy Minister of Justice from 2000 to 2001. He joined ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement and was elected as a member of Tbilisi Assembly in 2002. After the Rose Revolution, Okruashvili was appointed the governor of Central Georgia in November 2003 and established strong anti-corruption and anti-smuggling measures in the region.

He served as the Prosecutor General from January 2004 until Saakashvili appointed him as Interior Minister in June 2004 and moved him to the post of Defense Minister in December 2004.

On November 10, 2006, Saakashvili appointed him as Minister for Economic Development. Okruashvili resigned on November 17, 2006, and on September 25, 2007, he announced the formation of the new opposition Movement for United Georgia and unleashed criticism on President Saakashvili, accusing him of corruption, incompetence and human rights violations. After two days, he was detained on charges of extortion, money laundering, and abuse of office as Georgia's defense minister.

On October 8, 2007, in a video confession released by the General Prosecutor's Office, Okruashvili pleaded guilty to large-scale bribery through extortion and negligence while serving as a minister and retracted his accusations against the president, winning release on bail of GEL 10 million. He also said that his earlier allegations against Saakashvili were not true. After he pleaded guilty, Okruashvili was released. He left Georgia around November 1, 2007. He was sentenced to an 11- year term in prison in Georgia in absentia in March 2008.

After government change in Georgia in 2012, Okruashvili, who faced multiple criminal charges in Georgia, returned from his French exile back to his home country. But despite a broad amnesty for political prisoners, he was arrested upon arrival in the Tbilisi airport on November 20, 2012.

He was released from a courtroom on January 11 after Okruashvili was cleared off bribe-taking and extortion charges during by the Court of Appeals on January 10.