Bidzina Ivanishvili returns to politics as Honorary Chairman of Georgian Dream 

On 30 December, the “Georgian Dream” party conference was held, where approximately 350 delegates elected Bidzina Ivanishvili as the honorary chairman of the party.

During the conference, Ivanishvili discussed the reasons for returning to public politics. He mentioned that political activity was never his natural inclination, recalling his previous intention to leave politics shortly after winning the 2012 elections.

He noted that the situation compelled him to assume an advisory role to prevent detrimental developments in the country. He highlighted that his consultations with a few party leaders helped maintain stability within the team, noting that such advisory roles by former party leaders are common in many democracies.

Ivanishvili also addressed the risks of corruption within the ruling party. He pointed out that the weakening of the opposition could lead to complacency and internal conflicts within the ruling party, and in the absence of oppositional oversight, the risk of corruption might increase, necessitating special safeguards.

On 8 January, the updated charter of “Georgian Dream” was published, having been approved at the party congress on December 30. This revised charter formalises Ivanishvili’s significant influence within the party, a power he had wielded informally until then. The role of “honorary chairman” is not just symbolic; it endows Ivanishvili with considerable authority, including nominating the state’s Prime Minister candidate, subject to the Political Council’s approval. Given Ivanishvili’s high standing within the party, it is unlikely that the Political Council would ever reject his nominee.

Government and opposition representatives have reacted to Ivanishvili’s return to a party position. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili commented that Ivanishvili’s return is crucial, especially in the current dynamic geopolitical climate, which significantly impacts the country.

Former Prime Minister and leader of the “For Georgia” party, Giorgi Gakharia, remarked somewhat sardonically about Ivanishvili’s return, accepting the challenge and extending New Year greetings.

Giorgi Vashadze, leader of “Strategy Agmashenebeli,” observed that Ivanishvili’s reappearance in public politics was driven by the rapid decline in support for the “Georgian Dream” and his personal interests in security and well-being.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs summons Danish Ambassador for explanations

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia summoned Danish Ambassador to Georgia Anne Toft Sørensen to the agency for explanations.

Official Tbilisi requests an explanation from the Danish Ambassador regarding the letter published by her in the Danish media, in which she calls diplomat Bidzina Ivanishvili an oligarch who has accumulated wealth in Russia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern in their statement about the meeting with the Danish side. They highlighted that the article was meant to support Georgia’s EU integration process from Danmark’s perspective. However, they regretted that it was interpreted negatively by the opponents. Official Tbilisi lamented the article’s significant factual inaccuracies and subjective assessments, which they believed did not foster a positive international and Danish perspective towards the country. They also emphasised that such interpretations of the publication hinder the effective implementation of the European Union’s key objective for Georgia – depolarization.

Following the meeting, the Danish ambassador exited the Ministry building without providing comments to the media.

Before this, Kakha Kaladze, the general secretary of the Georgian Dream, had reacted to the summoning of the ambassador, describing the ambassador’s statement as “ordinary dirt.”

Splashing of icon depicting Stalin with the paint causes controversy in society 

On January 9, a video surfaced on social media showing an incident at the Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, where the icon of Matrona of Moscow, which also features an image of Joseph Stalin, was defaced with blue paint.

In response to this act, which was perceived as an insult to the icon, a violent group convened by “Alt-Info” organised a rally near the residence of the individual believed to be responsible for the incident. The rally escalated to the point where insults were hurled not only at Nata Feradze, the alleged perpetrator but also at journalists present at the scene.

Previously, on January 6, Deacon Ilia Chigladze posted photos on Facebook of the controversial icon located in the Trinity Cathedral, which includes a depiction of the Soviet dictator Stalin.

Following these events, on January 11, the Georgian Patriarchate issued a statement urging the donors of the St. Matrona of Moscow icon to amend the portion depicting Stalin’s meeting with Saint Matrona. The Patriarchate indicated that if the donors do not make the changes themselves, the Patriarchate would undertake the alterations.

The statement from the Patriarchate clarified the reasons behind their decision to modify this particular segment of the icon, which had stirred public outcry. It noted that the Russian Orthodox Church, which had canonised Saint Matrona and conducted extensive research on her life, had not included the meeting with Stalin in the “canonical text of his life” due to a lack of substantial evidence. The Patriarchate emphasised the necessity of altering this episode and other related iconographic details to align with canonical standards.

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