President Salome Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava and former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili – alleged “political prisoners” who have been released this evening shortly after presidential pardon – has galvanized Georgian political field, prompting mixed reactions across the aisles.
Civil.Ge offers a compilation of these statements.
Ruling Party’s Assessments
Irakli Kobakhidze, an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party castigated the President for her decision to “pardon political villains.”
In a strong-worded statement, he conveyed ruling party’s position that “a budget thief” [Ugulava, convicted of embezzling state funds] and a “a spy of Russian intelligence services” [Okruashvili, found guilty of engaging in mass violence during June protests] would wreak havoc on Georgia’s political field, and that they would rather be “locked up in jails.”
Kobakhidze refuted claims that them [Okruashvili and Ugulava] being jailed could “engender any problem for our country” by souring relations with international partners.
“We have often received letters penned by certain foreign politicians – trying to [these] political villains, but it did not prevent us from jailing several leaders of the criminal regime, while other leaders were convicted and fled the country,” Kobakhidze noted.
In a figure of speech, ruling party MP referred to opposition politicians as “political viruses,” that should be dealt in the same spirit as the “medical virus” – the novel coronavirus.
Kobakhidze asserted that barring “political villains” from reentering politics “is the only right path towards final depolarization of Georgian politics and establishing European-style sound political system.”
Gigi Ugulava, leader of European Georgia party credited Georgia’s international partners for “exerting pressure” on Zurabishvili to pardon him and Okruashvili.
He further thanked other opposition parties, as well his fellow party members and “Georgian society” for their concerted efforts to force the Georgian Dream “uphold a pledge they had made” in the March 8 agreement.
Unanimity displayed by various groups of Georgian and international society, Ugulava said, “proved so mighty that even our dear … President could not resist it.”
Irakli Okruashvili accused ruling party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili of “persecuting” his political opponents and forcing opposition politicians to “languish in jails for many years.”
Okruashvili hailed the March 8 agreement as a means of peaceful transition of power in Georgia. He pledged to do “his utmost” to help the opposition form a coalition government after October elections.
Okruashvili entertained no doubts over the reason behind his and Ugulava’s jailing – “this was a political decision and part and parcel of politics, and our release is also a political decision, an aftermath of political impact,” he said.
Nika Melia of the United National Movement cast into doubt the claim that Zurabishvili acted “on her own” while making this impactful decision. Nevertheless, he welcomed President’s decision as it created an opportunity to “hold more or less free elections” in the country.
Giga Bokeria of European Georgia commended Zurabishvili’s move, which, as he put it, was “a step towards [political] normalization.” He also voiced a demand to release Giorgi Rurua – yet another prisoner allegedly jailed on political grounds – which would lead to fulfillment of the March 8 agreement.