Welcome back! The Daily Dispatch is our editorial take on the past day’s news. You can subscribe here to get it in your mailbox . Click to write to us! We’d love to hear your ideas and opinions. Giorgi Tskhakaia has been browsing the news for you.
ODE TO GEORGIA The European Council, a club of EU’s 27 leaders, has put Georgia on the list of “safe countries” whose nationals can gain entry to the member states starting July 1. Globetrotting Georgians jumped from joy, but attention! The travel list is only an advisory and may be reviewed by national governments. A little early to start packing as Georgian authorities are in no rush to crack the country’s gates open, extending a ban on commercial flights through the end of the month. Still, welcome news – a recognition of Georgia’s successful steering of the pandemic response, as EU’s envoy put it.
VIRUS LEAVES ECONOMY IN TATTERS Geostat’s initial estimates say that Georgia’s GDP shrunk by whopping 13,5 % y/y in May – steepest contraction in years that spells grim outlook for the rest of 2020. It seems that much-ballyhooed domestic tourism won’t do the trick as Georgians remain cautious not to overspend their savings. Foreign visitors, who may have brought a brief respite amid the crisis, are discouraged from jetting off to summertime Georgia, for mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers remains in force. Unlike medicinal troubles, expect no quick fix to the country’s economic woes.
COURTING THE CZAR Aslan Bzhania and Anatoly Bibilov, leaders of Russian-occupied Georgian territories, never miss a chance to curry favor with the Kremlin boss. Not long ago, both showed up in Moscow to keep Putin company at a spectacular parade marking WW2 victory anniversary. Now they’re canvassing support for changes to the Russian constitution allowing Putin to stay in power until 2036. The Abkhaz leader, who holds Russian citizenship, has cast his vote in favor of the reform today, his Tskhinvali counterpart promising to follow suit soon. Easy to see what’s driving this cross-border electioneering, as economically battered regions are in dire need of fresh cash injections from Moscow.
CRACKING THE CODE Having pushed the new election system through the Parliament the ruling party got to some lacunae in the Election Code, noted earlier by OSCE/ODIHR, an international election watchdog. The law will become stricter on small-scale vote-bribing, and will expressly prohibit haggling or posing other obstacles to arriving voters within 25 meters of a polling station. In a separate development, the ruling party caucus has apparently endorsed quotas for women MP candidates. How exactly would that work, is yet to be legislated. We’ll keep an eye.
JUSTICE OVER FACEBOOK POST Bachana Shengelia, a Georgian notary, may lose his job over a Facebook post. The Justice Ministry accuses the lawyer of peddling “biased political views” on his social media page, which it claims goes against the professional code of conduct. Local watchdogs see a deliberate act aimed at muffling an outspoken critic of the government – after all, the article of the regulation seems to have been modified recently (and quietly), to include “politically biased statements” as a grave disciplinary offense. Shengelia gained publicity after her mother, a school principal, succumbed to a heart stroke in the wake of 2018 polls, allegedly pressured to join the campaign backing presidential bid of Salome Zurabishvili – ruling party’s candidate. Since his mother’s tragic demise, Shengelia has been in quest of justice, often ruffling the feathers of Georgian Dream grandees. It would set an alarming precedent if the Ministry has its way.
That’s full lid for today!