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14 Oct, 2007 03:35

Georgia considers a return to monarchy

The Georgian Parliament is to discuss the possibility of restoring the monarchy in the country. The idea was floated by the Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church and has been warmly greeted by opposition parties.

With no end in sight to Georgia's political turmoil, the country's top religious religious leader has proposed a radical solution – bringing back the country's royal family.

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, says putting the Bagrationi family back on the throne could end the nation's political woes.  

“This is not a matter to be decided by others. It is we who should decide this. The Georgian people and the people living in Georgia have to decide this. You know that the rule of the Bagrationi Dynasty was terminated in 1801, and since then Georgian people have nurtured a dream to restore the ancient, divinely blessed dynasty,” he said.  

The Bagrationi Dynasty is the longest serving royal house in Europe. They ruled Georgia in one form or another for over a thousand years, until Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire and the monarchy was abolished.  

Today, the main branches of the family live in Spain and Italy, but they remain popular in Georgia. And after the Patriarch’s statement, they could be coming home at last.

The idea has been greeted with jubiliation by the Georgian opposition – newly united following the arrest last month of former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili on corruption charges.

That was just two days after making a series of scandalous allegations against President Mikhail Saakashvili.  

Earlier this week, the former minister was released on $US 6 million bail after repudiating his allegations against the President.  

The opposition say they will nonetheless continue their protests against the Government, and one of their main demands is a reduction in the powers of the President. For the opposition, the Patriarch’s statement seems like a blessing.

“I'm for a parliamentary republic. I'm also for the possibility of restoring the constitutional monarchy here. A constitutional monarchy is also a kind of a parliamentary republic and this was the principle idea of our Patriarch,” says Freedom Party leader Koka Gamsakhurdia.  

The Patriarch’s is thinking long-term. His idea is to groom someone from the Bagrationi clan from childhood.  

This means the opposition are unlikely to get their king or queen any time soon. For its part, the Government isn’t ruling out the idea for the future.

Mikhail Machavariani Deputy Speaker of the Georgian parliament thinks, “At this stage it is not possible for Georgia to become a constitutional monarchy”.  “If we, Georgians, make this decision, a monarch must be raised from childhood,” he added.

Ordinary Georgians also seem prepared to at least consider restoring the monarchy after more than 200 years.

“The idea of having a constitutional monarchy is of course lovely, but I’m afraid it’s absolutely unrealistic,” one of the citizens says.   

Another local believes, “The restoration of the monarchy will happen in the future, it will be the best path to follow for the next generation.”

The Patriarch’s idea is an appeal to Georgians' sense of history and unity at a time when the county is gripped by a political crisis.  

And because Georgians respect the Patriarch, the idea is likely to be taken seriously.  

The idea of bringing back Georgia's royal family will get its first test in parliament shortly, when MPs discuss the proposal.