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Senior Cleric Weighs into Election Campaign with Politically Charged Sermon

A senior cleric of the Georgian Orthodox Church has slammed UNM opposition party and called on the voters in his Sunday sermon to go to second round of local elections on July 12 to “reject” those who, as he put it, “are not repenting for what they have done to the country.”

Bishop Jakob makes sermons in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi usually when the Patriarch is absent. The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church left for Germany on July 2 for a routine medical examination, according to the Patriarchate.

Second round of elections will be held in mayoral races in capital city Tbilisi and seven other self-governed cities. Runoffs will also be held in races for gamgebeli (municipal executive) in 13 municipalities.

Bishop Jakob said that the UNM should “stand aside for a while” and “give way to others”.

“Elections are approaching – I will speak about Tbilisi. I am born and raised in Tbilisi,” Bishop Jakob said. “Not everyone could stand next to us; if a person was guilty of something… this person himself could not dare to stand next to us as he knew that it was not his place… The Georgian nation has rejected rule [of the previous authorities], which was based on violence and bad things… I am not criticizing anyone; I speak with love, not with anyone’s hatred… It was always like this in Tbilisi that everyone knew each other and everyone was happy to have relation with someone who was a good person from a good family. Now they [referring to UNM] want to return back to the government, but what do they promise us?.. Will there be again executions in the streets, rapes in prisons?”

“It was a system, it was not just a whim of one person; neither head of penitentiary department nor anyone else could have done it [independently] if not that man, who is now fugitive and who is not arriving back to the country – I do not know what he is afraid of in case of return [back to Georgia],” Bishop Jakob said, referring to ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.

He then continued, referring to the UNM: “When you are offering yourself [in elections], at least come with some other brand, change yourself, quit [apparently UNM party] and establishing something; or you had not enough time to kill everyone and rape everyone? These might be hard words, but when you do not deserve to be in the leadership and when the lord sidelines you, you should give the way to others.”

“I am not saying that everything about the force, which is now [in the government], is praiseworthy – people showed to them in these elections that they are upset. But we all see difference [between the previous and the current authorities]. Now we are able for the first time to really elect and we should all go to the elections and make our choice in order to reject those people who are not repenting for what they have done to the country – they stripped the nation of its dignity – and who intend to return back,” the bishop said.

Race for capital city’s mayor went into second round after Georgian Dream ruling coalition’s candidate Davit Narmania garnered 46.09% of votes in the June 15 local elections – four percentage points short of 50% threshold needed for outright victory. Narmania will face UNM opposition party’s Nika Melia, who was a runner-up candidate with 27.97% of votes.

“[Court] verdict is not yet delivered, but they [UNM] rush abroad like informers and then foreign ministers of various countries write to us via Twitter,” he said in an obvious reference to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who tweeted on July 3 about the arrest of one of the UNM leaders, Gigi Ugulava: “The arrest of Mr Gigi Ugulava in Tbilisi seems to run contrary to previous commitment to the rule of law.”

“Two years have passed [since UNM was replaced in government] and they are still walking proudly and lecturing us; thanks god we are not revenge-seeking nation,” Bishop Jakob said and then added by making a reference to several cases when eggs were tossed at some UNM leaders during the campaigning: “Should not we live together in Tbilisi? Should we turn into a kogel-mogel [egg yolks beaten with sugar] party? It is our shame. It does not make me happy at all when eggs are thrown at our citizens.”

“Let them stand aside for a while if they love the god and the country and let them look at their mistakes… There are many good people there [in UNM] and they should not follow some others into political graveyard,” he said.

Bishop Jakob, 52, concluded his sermon by saying: “In old times, when I was a schoolboy, standing next to such people was a huge shame; good that it’s not the Soviet times now or we might have treated them otherwise.”


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