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With or without a king: will monarchy revive in Georgia?

David and Anna Bagrationi

Now the Georgians have one more topic for discussion: whether to have constitutional monarchy or not. The author of the idea is Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. During a recent ceremony in the Sameba Cathedral he said: “Georgia is an ancient country with an ancient culture. Perhaps, we should consider who we were in the past, who we are today and who we will be in tomorrow. Perhaps, we should remember that Georgia is one of the oldest monarchies. In the past, the king was our guardian under the aegis of God. Today, there are lots of kings who reign but not rule. This is what we call constitutional monarchy and this is what can give peace to a country.”

This is not a new topic in Georgia. The first time Ilia II suggested reviving the monarchy of the Bagrationis was 2007. He suggested growing up a worthy monarch for that purpose. Much earlier, in 1989, Temur Zhorzholiani established a conservative (monarchic) party. In the early 2000s, Gayoz Mamaladze and his opposition nationalist party created a Monarchic Club. Today, those people are in the past.

But Ilia II is a different story. He enjoys huge popularity in his country and not only among Orthodox Georgians. And he has never been engaged in empty rhetoric. In 2006, the House of Bagrationi decided who was the crown prince in Georgia – Nugzar Bagrationi and his successor is his grandson, Giorgi Bagrationi, who is now six years old. Georgy is the son of Nugzar’s daughter Anna and David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli. Ilia II is the godfather of Giorgi.

As you may see, the Georgian Patriarch has done much to restore monarchy in Georgia even though he says that this process will take years.

And what was the reaction of the political elite? Speaker of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze has welcomed Ilia II’s initiative. “What he said is the truth. Constitutional monarchy brings peace. But we must consider all factors here.” He has even met with Ilia II and after the meeting he said that Georgia might organize a plebiscite.

MP from the ruling Georgia Dream party Mamuka Mdinaradze says that constitutional monarchy is an attractive idea. But Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili is not so optimistic. “This problem cannot be solved in one-two days. This process may take a decade,” he said.

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The reaction of the opposition parties was easy to predict: if the ruling regime has welcomed an idea, they will object. According to the leader of the Movement for Liberty-European Georgia Gigi Ugulava, this idea is not practical. “Georgia will have to spend 10mn-15mn GEL ($4.1mn-6.2mn) on the royal family a year. This is immoral for a country with so many problems and poor people,” Ugulava said.

Ugulava seems to have forgotten how much he and his party spent when they were in power.

According to Member of the United National Movement Nika Rurua, monarchy is an outdated form of rule. “Monarchy is the rule of one family, while democracy means the rule of all people. So, I object to the idea to restore monarchy in Georgia,” Rurua said.

But when Rurua was part of the ruling regime, his boss Mikheil Saakashvili kept calling himself David the Builder (medieval king of Georgia) and enjoyed almost monarchic powers.

Constitutionalist Vakhtang Khmaladze does not believe in monarchy in Georgia. “I don’t think this is possible. As far as I Know, most of the Georgia do not want to have a king. We have had such polls in the past and their attitude was negative,” Khmaladze said.

So, the question is how realistic this project is and if it can give Georgia any real profit. Georgia is not the United Kingdom, Swede, Norway or even Spain. What is natural for some European nations is absolutely artificial for Georgia.

The Bagrationi dynasty ruled the country for almost ten centuries but those times were not peaceful or prosperous at all. At some periods, there were even several kings in Georgia, who ruled in Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti. So, we wonder how constitutional monarchy – something more like a decoration and a tribute to tradition – can help Georgia to solve its problems. The practice has shown that in Georgia no leader can resist the temptation of being an absolute ruler. Just remember, Giorgi Margvelashvili, who stood up against his own party when asked to leave the presidential palace.

So, we can say that constitutional monarchy has small if any chances to become a panacea for Georgia.

Irakli Chkheidze (Tbilisi), specially for EADaily

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