1. Georgia Main Page
  2. Georgia Gains Independence from USSR
  3. U.S. Supports Georgia
  4. Georgia and Russia Are Antagonists in Fight Over Breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia
  5. Georgia and Russia Reach Trade Agreement
  6. Georgia's President and Prime Minister Engage in Prolonged Power Struggle
  7. Georgia Holds Presidential Elections in October 2013
  8. Unrest in Abkhazia as Parliament Calls for Early Elections
Georgia's President and Prime Minister Engage in Prolonged Power Struggle

Gearing up for parliamentary elections in Oct. 2012, opponents of Saaksahvili's ruling party, United National Movement, held a huge rally in Tbilisi in May. President Saaksahvili's answer to rising opposition was the appointment of ally Vano Merabishvili as new prime minister on June 30.

In a stunning defeat, Saaksahvili's party lost October's parliamentary election to an opposition coalition called Georgian Dream, which is led by reclusive billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Georgian Dream won 54.9% of the vote (85 of 150 seats) and the United National Movement 40.4% (65) with voter turnout at 59.8%. During his nine years as president, Saaksahvili courted the West, moving toward membership in NATO and EU. He was praised for cracking down on crime. However, he was also accused of abusing power and stifling dissent. Saaksahvili was widely expected to breeze to re-election until late September, when a television station broadcast a video showing prison guards torturing inmates. Protests erupted, and the president promised to reform the country's prison system.

Because of constitutional change that will shift the government from a presidential to a parliamentary republic, Saaksahvili will remain in power for a year, and Ivanishvili will become prime minister. At the end of Saaksahvili's term the role of the presidency will be diminished and the prime minister will assume many of the president's powers. In the meantime, the two will have to share power, which could be a complicated situation given their divergent interests: Ivanishvili made much of his fortune in Russian interests, while Saaksahvili, who almost went to war with Russia, has clearly intended to move out from under Russia's shadow.

In May 2013, the uneasy power-sharing situation between President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili took a hit when former prime minister Vano Merabishvili was ordered to jail to await trial on charges of corruption. Both he and former labor minister Zurab Chiaberashvili, allies of Saakashvili, have been charged with embezzlement and abuse of office for allegedly putting more than 22,000 party activists on the labor ministry's payroll. Saakashvili claimed the charges were politically driven; EU leaders have called on Georgian officials to make sure the judicial process is fair.

Next: Georgia Holds Presidential Elections in October 2013
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