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CAMPAIGN TRAIL The European Georgia has named its heavyweights to the majoritarian districts today and formally launched the campaign for October general elections. Two surprises there: for a party professing economic liberalism, the pledge to “return Georgian property to the Georgian people,” and saying that state properties, including “agricultural lands, pastures, arable lands, and forests should be transferred to Georgian people free of charge” sounds a trifle off. Second surprise: the party heavyweight, former Secretary of the National Security Council Giga Bokeria, known to be more comfortable with the role of éminence grise, will step into the limelight and run as a majoritarian in Poti, Khobi, and Senaki – in West Georgian Samegrelo province. Tamara Chergoleishvili, a prominent activist and journalist (who also happens to be Bokeria’s wife), quit the Editorship of the party organ Tabula to manage the campaign. In a parting editorial, she postulated that Bidzina Ivanishvili, patron of the ruling Georgian Dream, and former president Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement (UNM) represent “two heads of a dragon” feeding on each others’ desire for absolute power. In a Georgian political spectrum, representing “a triptych” according to Chergoleishvili, it falls upon the more fragmented third to build the foundations of competitive democracy. Naturally, for her, the European Georgia is the pivotal point for the success of this project.
SLEUTHING The Dispatch informed you already of the two tragic deaths of youths – teenage footballer Giorgi Shakarashvili (19) and young programmer Tamar Bachaliasvhvili (23) – which resonate still in the Georgian public. As confidence in official investigations remains low, it falls to the press to do the sleuthing. While sometimes accused of unethical conduct, the press discovers pertinent details and shapes public opinion, much like their celebrated ancestors did in the U.S. of gangs in 20s and 30s. The most recent revelation in Bachaliashvili case was dug up by “Formula TV” – an anonymous source close to investigation told the channel that young programmer fell victim to accidentally uncovering compromising videos involving three high-ranking politicians. According to the same source, she was then attracted into a trap threatened and killed – while her body was dumped in her own car, transported to the venue where it was discovered, and cleaned of all the traces. The journalist who broke the story, David Kashiashvili, says the latest source has confirmed the information that the team already had from other, unrelated sources. Kashiashvili was interviewed by the police following the broadcast but refused to name his sources.
DISINFORMATION EMPIRE was uncovered by ISFED, an election watchdog, around Alt-Info news agency, peddling illiberal, anti-western, conspirationist, xenophobic, and homophobic messages to upwards of 700 thousand users on social media. The group contains 34 Facebook pages and groups illicitly coordinating their disinformation campaigns, says ISFED in a report.
CHANGING ATTITUDES? David Sichinava (@davidsichinava) research director of CRRC, a pollster, writes that the share of Georgians supporting a potential confederation arrangement with Abkhazia has grown by 14 percentage points from 2013 to 2019 and now rates at 49%, reaching half of the surveyed residents of Tbilisi, the capital. This is significant, if gradual, change from the overwhelming support to unitary state solution that dominated the first decade 2000s. The detailed writeup is available in Caucasus Analytical Digest, a regular paper published by local and international think-tanks. It is worth a read.
FLYING HOT Enthusiast websites reported that the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air force performed rare live-arms exercises in Black Sea littoral, including air refueling of F-16 fighter jets. A signal that is unlikely to fall on deaf ears in Moscow.
WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH of Georgia’s netizens has been filling the social media as Tbilisi municipality has launched the much awaited (and delayed) arrangement on Chavchavadze avenue, the main thoroughfare in Tbilisi’s posh Vake district. The arrangement dedicates a fast bus-lane to public transport, leaving the Tbilisi motorists a single lane in each direction. Pedestrian sidewalks are freed from parked vehicles, bicycle lanes are drawn, and significantly more traffic lights are up to make the avenue more pedestrian-friendly. As it was to be expected in Georgia’s highly polarized environment, the lines are drawn, as Tbilisites debate whether this is a magnificent breakthrough in city planning, or an abomination. Pick your camp and tread cautiously.
That’s full lid for today!