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Patarkatsishvili Nominally in Race

Despite announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race, business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili will not officially ask the Central Election Commission (CEC) to strike his name off the list of presidential candidates until January 4, just one day before polling day.

Giorgi Zhvania, head of the Patarkatsishvili campaign HQ, said despite the decision to withdraw from the race, Patarkatsishvili and his allies would continue “the political fight” to achieve victory for “democratic forces.”

Zhvania, who returned from London on December 28, where he met with Patarkatsishvili, also said that Patarkatsishvili’s team hoped “any candidate from the democratic opposition” would win in the January 5 elections. He did not, however, give a preference.
“Questions and suspicion have been raised about Mr. Patarkatsishvili among the population, so in these circumstances he decided to withdraw from the race,” Zhvania said. He was referring to covertly recorded audio and video tapes, which add weight to official allegations that Patarkatsishvili and his allies were planning post-election unrest and plotting a coup d’etat.

Despite ending his campaign, Zhvania said the Patarkatsishvili campaign headquarters would remain operational.

Kote Gabashvili, a ruling party lawmaker and chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said Patarkatsishvili’s decision to nominally remain in the race was a continuation of his “negative manipulations.” “By doing so he is actually giving the go-ahead to his campaign HQ to continue their negative campaigning,” he said on December 28.

PM Lado Gurgenidze, speaking on the same day, dismissed the move, saying it was made by “a marginal candidate,” and was of “little importance.”

Patarkatsishvili announced his intention to withdraw from the presidential race on December 27.

“Today the opposition leaders actually demanded that I and Saakashvili withdraw from the presidential race. I am meeting their demand,” he said in a written statement issued by his press office. Later he released a video, in which he reiterated the same point.

“I am ready to stop my election campaign and to inform the Central Election Commission that I am no longer contesting the election. This is not a difficult decision to make, because I have never put my own interests above those of the state. I thank everybody who believed and still believes in me. They will not be disappointed. I will keep all my promises given to the Georgian people. I have no doubt that the Saakashvili regime will be defeated.”

Earlier on December 27 Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, said both Saakashvili and Patarkatsishvili were “playing dirty games” in an attempt “to thwart the election and discredit free media outlets.”

And a day earlier, Imedi TV staff and management said the television station was “temporarily suspending” broadcasts in an attempt “to distance ourselves from dirty political games” and in protest against both its owner, Patarkatsishvili, and the authorities. Many leading Imedi journalists had earlier quit.

All these developments came after the Georgian authorities released compromising video and audio tapes implicating Patarkatsishvili and his allies in an alleged coup plot. The audio tapes purport to show Patarkatsishvili offering USD 100 million to a top Interior Ministry official, Irakli Kodua, in exchange for – among other things – “neutralizing” Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili.

Patarkatsishvili, in the same statement issued on December 27, tried to explain the tapes. “I wanted to pay money to prevent the authorities from firing on my people, while they [the authorities] planned to pay money to have me killed,” he said. Patarkatsishvili had earlier released an audio tape, in which his assassination was allegedly discussed and planned by a Georgian Interior Ministry official and a Chechen warlord.


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