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Speaker: Rustavi 2 TV Director’s Remarks on Zurabishvili ‘Hysterical, Fascist’

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, who has emerged as the leading campaigner for the ruling party-endorsed presidential candidate, slammed the director of the opposition-leaning Rustavi 2 TV, Nika Gvaramia, for his “fascist,” and “hysterical” remarks on Salome Zurabishvili.

Kobakhidze made the statement at a special press briefing on October 8, three days after Gvaramia wrote a Facebook post, reading: “We have to pressure all those who are either financing or otherwise assisting Salome Zurabishvili, every politician who’s accompanying her [at campaign meetings] and supporting her … we have to remember [them] and force them out of all spheres of public life, be it business, culture or politics.”

Gvaramia clarified his position later on October 5, saying this was his “personal position as a citizen of Georgia.” “I consider Zurabishvili a traitor and a great threat to our homeland, and yes, fighting against the country’s traitors is exactly what I will do, be it at Rustavi 2 or elsewhere … As for Rustavi 2, the television and Nika Gvaramia are two different things; Rustavi 2 has never rejected any of Zurabishvili’s requests – the TV station has been observing all of its legal [campaign] obligations, in spite of the fact that we are not particularly pleased with giving airtime to the country’s traitor.”

Kobakhidze opened his press statement by calling Gvaramia “one of the leaders of the United National Movement and the director general of a television station belonging to the party.” “This is a statement of a failed, inept fascist, who has been defeated before the Georgian democracy, the society and the truth for numerous times over the past six years,” he said.

The Parliament Speaker added that Gvaramia’s statement was “unequivocally linked to recent candidate ratings, where Salome Zurabishvili is decisively winning, while Gvaramia’s and UNM’s party candidate, Grigol Vashadze, is struggling to win the second place.”

He then stressed the Georgian public “had been expecting a clear position from the civil society organizations on Gvaramia’s fascist remarks, but failed to hear any such remarks.”

“What is more alarming, is that one of them, Mikheil Benidze, even dared to defend Nika Gvaramia,” the Speaker added, apparently referring to the remarks of the executive director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) that Gvaramia’s statement “fits within freedom of expression and does not contradict with the election code.”

Speaking to Prime Time news agency, ISFED’s Mikheil Benidze said: “Gvaramia is a director of a private company and they do not have any limitations in the political campaigning; the important thing is for the television station to have an equal approach for all candidates and electoral subjects. If he had said that the TV station would not allocate time for Salome Zurabishvili, that would have beeen a clear violation of the election code, but in this case, no campaign-related regulations have been violated.”

“The role and the idea of civil society is very important, including in the context of the Georgian-American, Georgian-European and Georgian-western relations, [but] unfortunately, specific individuals, who are leading some civil society organizations, are harming the very idea [of civil society] because of their politicization and political bias,” Kobakhidze said.

“We would like to underline that those covering up the fascism, are themselves accomplices of fascism; it is regretful, that there are such persons among the civil society leaders,” he noted.

Senior ruling party MPs echoed Kobakhidze’s criticism. MP Mamuka Mdinaradze told reporters after the press briefing that the CSO “negligence” of Gvaramia’s “fascist” statement was “extremely alarming.” “It is regretful that the civil society organizations, who were unable to voice any of their positions some time ago, have failed to react [to the fascist attempts of some people to marginalize others],” Deputy Speaker Giorgi Volski added.

Irakli Kobakhidze’s statement comes less than a week after the head of legislature has slammed the civil society organizations, saying their leadership was partisan, their objectives self-serving, and their claim to represent public opinion – unsubstantiated. The Speaker was then responding to the joint statement of thirteen leading CSOs that the Omega Group-related developments indicated at “a severe crisis in the governance system, clear signs of high level corruption and informal, clan rule.”

The elections will take place on October 28. This will be the last time that the head of state will be elected through direct ballot. According to the new constitution, which will enter into force upon new president’s inauguration, the heads of state will be elected by a 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years starting from 2024.

For the extended background, follow our Tag on the 2018 Presidential Polls.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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