On Sunday, January 26, Alliance of Patriots, a nativist party led by Parliament vice-speaker Irma Inashvili and party chairman Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, calling for banning two prominent Washington, D.C. based non-profit organizations – National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) – from Georgia.
The party leaders also called for investigating NDI’s Resident Director Laura Thornton for “political corruption.”
The campaign by the Alliance of Patriots was triggered by the recent public opinion survey published by NDI on January 16. MP Inashvili claimed NDI deliberately altered the survey results, saying Thornton is politically biased towards the United National Movement, Georgia’s former ruling party (2004-2012).
NDI, as well as IRI regularly solicit the public opinion polls, which are fielded by the national pollsters and are considered the leading indicators of country’s mood.
Controversially, the Alliance also sought to build bridges with Russia, calling for creation of the group of friendship during their visit to State Duma in Moscow in 2017, a move that was criticized by the Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze (GD).
“We came here to tell the U.S. government: “get NDI and IRI out of Georgia”. Finish with this lie. An investigation should start into the case of a political corruption [by] Laura Thornton. Falsifying data is a crime. This crime is taking place on the soil of our state, therefore, our agencies should start an investigation,” vice-speaker Irma Inashvili told media outside the U.S. Embassy on January 26.
Vice-speaker Inashvili then wrote on her Facebook page following the rally that “we are not fighting against the U.S. Congress or the U.S. [itself], but rather, [we are fighting] against the lie of [Laura] Thornton, [David] Kramer or [Matthew] Bryza, and of your lobbyists, that are falsifying the surveys…”
“We are not either [Laura] Thornton’s or [David] Kramer’s experimental laboratory, or a colony,” she stated, adding that “we are telling the U.S. Congress, the Senate and the American government to drive this big lie – that is NDI and IRI – out of Georgia.” The Alliance also noted, in their social media posts, that they considered these figures – as well as the two non-profits – “anti-Trumpist” and acting in contravention with the U.S. administration’s foreign policy objectives.
On January 22, few days before the rally, Giorgi Lomia, the Chairman of “the Alliance of Patriots and Social-Democrats” faction called on the citizens to join to the rally and to state their attitude towards NDI and IRI. Lomia then noted that “naturally, we should state [our] position about those political forces that are creating anti-American attitude[s] in Georgia. Once and for all, we need to tell the U.S. Embassy to pay its attention to these organizations, so that we can somehow anti-American attitudes in our country!”
Georgian citizens have posted on social media of having received sms messages and phone calls during the run-up to the rally to join in.
The Alliance of Patriots just called me and told me to come to their protest at the US embassy to protest activities of NDI and IRI and CRRC (who are "clearly allies of UNM") and that it's my duty to go there as Georgian citizen. Creepy enough that they knew my name and surname.
— Mariam Nikuradze (@mari_nikuradze) January 23, 2020
On January 20, during her press-conference announcing the January 26 rally, vice-speaker Inashvili said: “since 1990s, these organizations, that are American organization, their Tbilisi branches, together with local Georgian companies, are carrying out anti-state activities against Georgian state and the Georgian people. We can openly say that the surveys that Tbilisi branches of these organizations [conduct] and [then publicize] in recent years, are only the lies and falsifications, [aimed at] distorting the reality…”
She further stated that “this represents a political bias – that is very dangerous – towards the UNM and its leaders… These so-called surveys [by NDI, IRI] are directly threatening our state and this has [already] become a state security issue.” MP Inashvili then highlighted “you all know very well what the phenomenon terrorism represents. There are various forms of terror… Whatever NDI and IRI Tbilisi branches are doing… represents a certain kind of terror.”