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The Dispatch

The Dispatch – December 14

MP Kobakhidze’s (Mis)Calculations – TV Director’s Shattered American Dream – German Ambassador Introduces Awards – Protests in Batumi and Tskhinvali

ERROR AND TERROR ISFED, the country’s biggest election watchdog, is facing a difficult moment of truth after it recently admitted to an error in its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for October elections. Importantly, the resulting minor correction for that error would not have affected the overall projected distribution of the proportional MP seats in the Parliament. Still, ISFED’s admission led to some difficult soul-searching within this respected watchdog and some finger-pointing outside of it… In a political atmosphere rife with conspiracy theories some opposition-minded commentators have bemoaned “the fall of ISFED,” speculating that it succumbed to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s stick or his monetary carrot. Others wondered about the ruling party’s suspicious words and acts before the revelation – Irakli Kobakhidze, GD’s head of the campaign, dared the opposition to recount – no, not the votes, as the opposition asked, but ISFED’s PVT – apparently both in private, during the foreign-mediated talks, and, later, in public. Did GD try to use the error to its negotiation advantage before it became publicly known? And if yes, how did they learn about it?! Leaks, eavesdropping on the watchdog? Too many questions, unanswered as they are essentially pointless – claims ISFED. Its officials argue that the core notion – that these elections were the most flawed under GD, and that the error, albeit regrettable and unprecedented, did not affect the gist of that argument – sands nonetheless. MP Kobakhidze, in the meantime, upped the ante calling on ISFED to apologize for “aiding the revolutionary scenario.” One can’t blame the politician for keeping the topic that casts him in a positive light alive in the media. But there is a limit to that spin – or so seemed to suggest USAID, one of ISFED’s donors and partners, which commended the watchdog for the job it usually does so well, and for making its error public. Case closed?! We don’t think so.

THIS IS NOT AMERICA Neither is this one of Bowie’s songs, but rather the most frequently recited line in the latest guilt-tripping, on-air “trial” by opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV Director Nika Gvaramia. Self-confessed pro-Western lynchpin, Mr. Gvaramia could not be more disillusioned in the duplicity of Western diplomacy and he barred no punches to bring that point home yesterday. Bouncing off his earlier attacks against the way that the EU and U.S. facilitators led the post-election crisis talks (Mr. Gvaramia was particularly reeling against the limited transparency of the topics discussed), the TV mogul made the U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan his new, personal, primary target.

A long list of accusations pressed against the Ambassador included denying visa to Giorgi Gabunia who was chased down by a Russian hitman after his famous tirade against Vladimir Putin; making calls to Kiyv and Washington to prevent Ex-President Saakashvili’s appointment anywhere (citing Ukrainian sources). He further accused Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Catherine Schweitzer of openly alleging that Mtavari Arkhi Founder Giorgi Rurua, (detained for illegal arms possession – the opposition says, wrongly) was the head of an armed gang. In separate statements, Gvaramia also implied the persons affiliated to the ruling party exert undue influence on the Embassy’s policy. Fairness demands to say, he did not mince words, either, and went to the very top, slamming the outgoing President Donald Trump for a good measure.

Gvaramia’s statements are usually dovetailing with those of UNM, but truth to be told, none of the pro-Western opposition leaders have hit out on the foreign mediators, or personally Ambassador Degnan this time. Is Mr. Gvaramia succumbing to hubris?

PLEASE DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD For a man of good intentions, German Ambassador Hubert Knirsch, is too often misunderstood. His willingness to prod the third rail of Georgia’s high tension political scene has raised eyebrows before. In a recent interview with the pro-government Imedi TV, the Ambassador, seemed to mock the opposition, even suggesting to introduce awards for the most “exotic” and “imaginative” statements of the opposition. Our little pamphlets are a testimony that the ruling party does not lack imagination and produces its share of outlandish statements. Perhaps Amb. Knirsch would want to throw that into his balance sheet?!

SLEEPLESS IN BATUMI Unlike in the capital city of Tbilisi, where winter freeze and COVID lockdown did their job to de-intensify street protests, participants of the post-election opposition rallies in the subtropical western city of Batumi do not look tired. Reiterating their key demand to meet Tornike Rizhvadze, the Head of Adjara Autonomous Republic’s government, the protesters confronted the police once again. There were multiple arrests. Funny, how the events outside Tbilisi just don’t seem to make enough splash.

QUEST FOR JUSTICE IN TSKHINVALI Neither is all quiet in the isolated Tskhinvali, where the consequences of the Jabiev crisis are still felt. Joined by supporters, the family of Inal Jabiev, a 28-year-old Tskhinvali resident who was allegedly tortured to death in August while in detention over the alleged attempted murder of the occupied region’s interior minister, has been holding “unauthorized” rallies in the town center for over a week. The wife of the victim reportedly vows to continue protests unless the demands of fair investigation and resignation of “prosecutor general” are met.

Delayed justice for victims of Kremlin-backed Tskhinvali’s grave human rights abuses, particularly against those in detention, is definitely what people on both sides of the dividing line can relate to: those responsible for the death of ethnic Georgian Archil Tatunashvili are still not held accountable. Hardly surprising.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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