Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Shooting of Opposition Leader Roils Georgia Ahead of Contentious Election

Shooting of Opposition Leader Roils Georgia Ahead of Contentious Election

A prominent Georgian opposition leader, Aleksi Petriashvili, was shot and wounded on February 26 at a cemetery in central Tbilisi. While he is expected to make a full recovery, the attack is likely to aggravate Georgia’s worsening political divides. At the very least, it will raise questions about the government’s ability to maintain pubic security just months before October parliamentary elections. Petriashvili’s attackers, reported as “well trained,” remain unknown and at large.

The attack has prompted a number of theories, most of which assume that the primary motive was not political. The most broadly circulated explanations focus on clan rivalries mixed in with various rumors about personal vendettas and conflicting business interests. Even so, Petriashvili’s prominence virtually guarantees that the attempt on his life will have political ramifications.

A former Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration, Petriashvili is a leading figure in the Free Democrats party, which broke away from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition in November 2014 after its leader, Irakli Alasania, was dismissed by then-Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili from his post as defense minister. During their period within the Georgian Dream coalition, the pro-western Free Democrats were outspoken supporters of liberal reforms and deeper ties with Euro-Atlantic institutions.

“Until the investigation is complete and the perpetrators are apprehended, the security of the nation and of average citizens is under threat,” Alasania told Foreign Policy, criticizing the government’s handling of public safety. “We need to take emergency action to start better managing Georgia’s problem of organized crime. Law enforcement simply needs more resources.”

The Free Democrats, though now in the opposition, were a leading proponents of reform within the Georgian Dream government. As defense minister, Alasania was known internationally for introducing a series of…

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