History

Beginnings

The Republican Party of Georgia was founded on 21 May 1978. During this time, unlike many other active dissident groups, whose attention was mainly focused on protecting human rights within the provisions of the Soviet Constitution, the Republican Party’s stated aim from the outset was the restoration of Georgia’s independence, the establishment of political pluralism, the formation of democratic institutions, ensuring the freedom of the press and the formation of a market economy. 

Like-minded Republicans in Tbilisi, Batumi, Sokhumi, Zugdidi, Tkibuli and Chiatura formed illegal groups, and during this period, the Republican Party published, printed and distributed two issues of the newspaper Samreklo (“Bell Tower”). 

In 1983-84, the State Security Committee imprisoned the party’s leader and four of its founding members - Vakhtang Dzabiradze (Chairman of the Party’s National Committee from 1979-1995), Levan and Davit Berdzenishvili and Vakhtang Shonia. Another active party member, Pridon Jajanidze, was arrested later. 

On 20 April 1984, the Supreme Court of the Georgian SSR effectively outlawed the party’s existence. The party’s founder was charged with “anti-Communist agitation and proganda” and put on trial for creating the “anti-Communist, so-called Republican Party.” They served their entire sentences in Soviet camps for political prisoners in Perm and Mordovia. Thanks to the prisoners’ resilience and high moral qualities, a large majority of party members escaped the investigation by the State Security Committee. 

Entry into Politics

Since the end of the 1980s, the Republican Party has been active in Georgian politics. In the first multiparty elections of 28 October 1990, the Republicans gained three seats on the Supreme Council as co-founders of the opposition faction “Democratic Centre”. In January 1991, the Republican Party gained 20% of votes in elections for the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, where it formed the opposition faction “Adjara”. After the 1991-92 coup, Republican representatives were represented in the government’s temporary structures – in the Constitutional and State Councils (in 1992). 

The Republican Faction

After allying with the Free Democrats (1991) and joining the political organization “Democratic Elections in Georgia (DAS)” (1992), the Republicans have worked as a stable team. As a result of the parliamentary elections held on 11 October 1992, a 10-person opposition faction was formed called “Republicans”, which introduced bills on a Social Court, Georgia’s administrative-territorial divisions, the status of Abkhazia and Adjara and reform of the executive, legislative and judicial authorities. The faction was active in political debates, taking to the streets in protest against Georgia joining the CIS

The Republican Party drew up and presented a private bill on the Georgian Constitution, which established the model of a parliamentary republic and decentralized government. The Republicans has a positive effect on the creation and adoption of the 1995 constitution – several Republican leaders being members of the State Constitutional Commission. 

In 1994, as a result of the union between the Republicans, the popular front and Kartia-91, the “United Republican Party” was formed, which was short-lived. On November 5 1995, after their defeat in parliamentary elections, the Republican Party re-emerged as an independent political organization. In a congress called in February 1995, Ivliane Khaindrava was elected Party Chairman by the National Committee. 

“The Third Way”

Those Republicans remaining in parliament continued working on the most important problems of the life of the state, frequently and actively participating in international conferences and seminars. In August 1997, the Republican Party published a concept note on a possible way to resolve the conflict in Abkhazia, and in the following years, produced new suggestions in this area. 

In May 1999, the Republican Party formed a political alliance with the National-Democratic Party and the Industrialists’ Party – The Third Way – with the slogn “Neither Shevardnadze, nor Abashidze”. In the 1999 parliamentary elections, the alliance receive 4.46% of the vote (according to official figures) and were unable to pass the electoral threshold, which had been raised at that time to 7%.  Even after this electoral defeat, the Republican Party continued its uncompromising battle against the cronyism of Shevardnaze and Abashidze, although it was unable to find competent support from its partners, leading to dissolution of the alliance in July 2001. 

Georgia without Shevardnadze

At the congress convened in March 2000, a new set of regulations was adopted and Davit Berdzenishvili was elected Chairman of the National Committee. At thousands-strong demonstration held before parliament at the end of October 2001, the Republican Party used the slogan “Georgia without Shevardnadze” which was adopted by the three-party electoral bloc formed in spring 2002, the “National Movement – Democratic Front” (composed of the Saakashvili-Davitashvili National Movement, the Republican Party and Zviad Dzidziguri’s “Union of National Forces – Conservatives”)

In local elections on 2 June 2002, the “National Movement – Democratic Front” won 24% of votes in Tbilisi. Mikheil Saakashvili became Chairman of the Sakrebulo, while Davit Berdzenishvili became Chairman of the united faction “National Movement – Democratic Front”. The bloc took first place in the 2 November parliamentary elections (according to exit polls and parallel vote tabulation – with 27% of the vote). The Republicans led the electoral campaign in Batumi (with the slogan “Batumi without Abashidze”) and participated in organizing the national protest campaign against the rigging of elections by Shevardnadze’s and Abashidze’s governments, which culminated in Shevardnadze’s resignation on 23 November. 

The Republican Parliament played a defining role in defeating Abashidze’s “Renaissance” party during the repeat parliamentary elections in Adjara on 28 March 2004, leading to popular protests and Abashidze’s exile to Moscow on the 6 May. The Republican Party entered the Georgian parliament with five representatives. 

Republican Choice

After the events of November 2003, the Republicans soon found themselves embroiled in sharp debate with Saakashvili’s team on a host of principal issues. The Republicans harshly and argumentatively criticized the constitutional reforms carried out by Saakashvili in February 2004, in which the authorities sharply curtailed the functions of parliament and opened the way for authoritarianism, with the executive authorities enforcing excessive reform on the justice system.  

In an undemocratic fashion and with scant regard for the country’s state divisions and strategic goals, the Georgian parliament adopted a constitutional law on the status of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic in June 2004. Instead of self-government, de facto direct presidential control was established in Adjara with only a façade of democracy. 

Similarly, the Republicans viewed as unacceptable the abasement of human rights and the practice of neglecting the rule of law in an attempt to achieve revolutionary goals, which had become clear by the spring of 2004. 

The Republicans considered that after the successful end of the national struggle against Shevardnadze and Abashidze’s governments, remaining the in National Movement bloc was no longer necessary or possible. In June 2004, the Republicans split with the ruling party and their leader Mikheil Saakashvili and went into opposition. 

In the 20 June elections to the Supreme Council of Adjara, the former partners – the Republicans and the National Movement – found themselves in competition. In Batumi, the authorities conducted the elections according to Abashidze’s metholodogies, while in the regions – Abashidze-style election results (almost always more than 90% of the vote) were recorded. According to official figures, the Republican Party gained only 13.5% of the Adjarian electorate’s vote. Three deputies were represented on Adjara’s 30-seat Supreme Council. At the same time, a number of party members were also represented in Tbilisi’s City Assembly (Sakrebulo). As of 2006, the Republican Party was one of the few opposition forces which has deputies in all three of the country’s principle representative bodies. 

On 27 June 2005, the Republican Party’s regular congress was held, which responded to calls for the Party’s re-construction and strengthening in the face of new realities. Davit Usupashvili was elected Party Chairman, Party’s National Committee was transformed and its numerical composition increased.

With the aim of making parliamentary activity more effective, along with the now-opposition Conservatives and non-party members of parliament, in Autumn 2005 the Republicans formed the opposition faction “Democratic Front”, by which brought together into one faction the most prominent figures of the ruling political alliance under Saakashvili’s leadership between 2002 and 2004 (Koba Davitashvili, Levan Berdzenishvili, Zviad Dzidziguri, Davit Berdzenishvili, Davit Zurabishvili and others). 

In February 2006, the Party published a programmatic document called “Republican Choice”, which contailed a detailed assessment of the efficacy of the two years of Saakashvili’s government’s activities in democracy, institutional development, at the same time offering a solutions-orientated Republican (liberal) view. Along with independent experts, the Republicans drew up a wide-ranging concept note for solving the problem of Abkhazia, a model for organizing self-government in the country, a packet of legislative initiatives to ensure the independence of the judiciary, a constitutional reform model and other important documents. 

In local elections on 5 October 2006, the Republican and Conservative Parties formed an electoral bloc which took 8.6% of the national vote, thereby coming second after the ruling party. Despite the unfair electoral environment created by Saakashvili and the National Movement, the establishment of single-party control over the electoral administration and clearly skewed public debate on political issues, the Republican and Conservative Bloc achieved fairly good results in these elections (Tbilisi 12%, Batumi 26%, Gurjaani 24%, Ambrolauri 22%, Ozurgeti 21%, both Borjomi and Khelvachauri 17%, Poti 16% etc)

International Recognition

On 10 November 2006, the Republican Party of Georgia was accepted as an observer member by the Liberal Institute (LI) at its 54th congress held in Morocco, achieving full membership on 3 April 2013. At the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Euope (ALDE) Party congress held from 18-19 October 2007, the Republican Party of Georgia was admitted as a full member. This makes the Republican Party the first political organization in Georgia to enjoy recognition as a true member of a family of kindred European and International parties. 

Fighting by Illegal Means

As one of the main political opponents of Saakashvili’s government, the Republican Party faced a frontal attack on the part of the authorities, including by illegal means. In July 2005, the Republican parliamentarian Valeri Gelashvili was nearly killed by armed and masked assailants. In April 2006, the presidential majority ejected him from parliament on vague charges. 

November 7 and Rigged Elections

The build-up of dissatisfaction during the years of Saakashvili-National Movement rule and an acute feeling of injustice led to large protests in the Autumn of 2007. From the beginning the mass movement was led by a united opposition council, in which the Republican Party held a preeminent position. On November 7, the authorities reacted with unprovoked violence against its own people, after which the confrontation became extremely risky. 

Mikheil Saakashvili announced early presidential elections scheduled for 5 January 2008. In these elections, the Republican Party supported the United Opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze, who stood as Saakashvili’s main opponent. The authorities constrained every stage of the electoral process and Saakashvili’s victory was secured in the first round, taking the political crisis into a new phase. Not only the United Opposition, but also the other presidential candidates and their supporters rejected the results of the election and refused to accept the legitimacy of Saakashvili’s win. 

The plebiscite held concurrently with the presidential election confirmed the people’s will that parliamentary elections be held in summer (before the end of parliament’s term) on 21 May. The Party decided to participate in this elections independently, putting together a 150-strong electoral list and fielding candidates in 67 constituencies. An extraordinary session of congress was held on 12 May to mark 30 years since the Party’s founding. 

The elections were conducted in atmosphere of voter intimidation and vote-buying by the authorities. Although the results published by the Central Electoral Commission did not even remotely correlate with the political reality, the ruling party was given a constitutional majority in parliament. The Republican Party’ official result in these elections was 3.84%, which was not sufficient to cross the electoral threshold of 5% (2 Republican candidates running as independents won in majoritarian constituencies). The majority of opposition candidates who won seats in parliament refused to accept their mandates as deputies in protest and the political crisis deepened. 

 “What shouldn’t have happened, has happened”

The 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia further worsened the country’s internal and external political situation. With this event, when the majority of parties temporarily suspended their own political positions and assessments, the Republican Party underlined in a statement published on 8 August that “What shouldn’t have happened has happened, which from the beginning should and could have been avoided.”

“Alliance for Georgia”

The autumn of 2008 marked the intensification of political processes in the country. On 8 December the Republican Party and the political union “New Rights” signed an agreement forming a political alliance. On 23 February 2009, however, after consultations lasting several months, the “Alliance for Georgia” was formed, bringing together the Republican Party, the New Rights and Irakli Alasania’s political team, with the latter as its Chairman. 

The alliance took part in the 2010 local self-government elections. 17 Republican Party members were represented in the Local Assemblies of 17 municipalities. 

On the 8 July 2009, the Republican Party’s thirteenth regular congress was held. The Congress adopted a new set of Party regulations and in a competitive process elected the 35 members constitutive members of the National Committee and 5 members to constitute the Revisionary Commission. At the first session of the National Committee, Davit Usupashvili was re-elected Party Chairman. 

In 2011 the Republican Party was represented in the opposition “Eight” with other parties – the New Rights, National Forum, Free Democrats, the Conservative Party, The Way of Georgia, the Christian-Democratic Movement and the People’s Party – trying to achieve a fair electoral environment. However, the New Rights and the Christian Democrats left the “Eight”, causing the bloc to collapse. 

In November 2011 the Party’s fourteenth regular congress was held as which a new National Committee was elected. The Committee again elected Davit Usupashvili as chairman. 

In Government

On 21 February 2012, the political coalition “Georgian Dream” was created, which united Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, the Republican Party, Our Georgia – Free Democrats, National Forum, the Conservative Party and Industry Will Save Georgia. 

The coalition won parliamentary elections on 1 October 2012. In parliament, nine Republicans formed the faction “Georgian Dream – Republicans”, which along with its partners are united with the parliamentary majority. The members of the faction are: Gigla Agulashvili, Davit Berdzenishvili (Chairman of the faction), Levan Berdzenishvili, Nodar Ebanoidze (First Deputy Chairman of the Finance and Budgeting Committee), Pridon Sakvarelidze (First Deputy Chairman of the Procedure and Regulations Committee), Davit Usupashvili, Tinatin Khidasheli (Deputy Chairperson of the faction), Malkhaz Tsereteli (Secretary of the faction) and Vakhtang Khmaladze. 

The Republican Party Chairman Davit Usupashvili was elected as Speaker of Parliament and Gigla Agulashvili as Agrarian Committee Chairman, whilst Vakhtang Khmaladze was made Chairman of the Judicial Committee. 

Similarly, Republicans have been appointed within the Georgian Government: Paata Zakareishvili: as State Minister for Reintegration and Tengiz Shergelshvili as First Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure.

In 2013 was held the Republican Party congress, which elected a new National Committee. The party elected a new chairman Khatuna Samnidze.

In May 2015, Tinatin Khidasheli became Defense Minister while Gigla Agulashvili was appointed Minister for Environmental and Natural Resources Protection. In Georgia’s coalition government, they, along with Paata Zakareishvili represent the Republican Party. Currently, Levan Berdzenishvili is Chairman of the Committee for European Integration, while Tamar Kordzaia is Deputy Chairperson of the faction, and Temur Nergadze has taken up Gigla Agulashvili’s role within the faction. 

 

 

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