The Dispatch

The Dispatch – December 16

Demolition game: Kaladze’s “let them eat cake” moment  – Tsulukiani Unchained: Ex-justice minister strikes from MP seat with vengeance – Angels Hate Rainbows: Singer ditched from choir over gay rights stand – Seasons’ Miracles: the Constitutional Court Sides with the Freedom of Expression – Play it, Sam: Of all the parliaments in all the world, she walks into ours…

PARASITE Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has made desperate attempts to dig himself out of the hole that he dug himself – only to make things worse. Yesterday’s demolition of a shantytown constructed on state-owned land turned into a PR disaster. Live-streamed images of bulldozers razing unfinished shacks, amid tearful owners touched even the hearts of individual responsibility and invisible hand ideologists. The heart-wrenching image of the father and his young son, staring despondently at the camera, popping up incessantly on social media, becoming the accusatory face of poverty that many of the chattering masses seem to ignore.

Kaladze’s initial reaction made things worse. He clung to the legal provisions and said most of those affected by the demolition actually owned properties in the countryside. Erstwhile self-made defender of AC Milan even went on to mentor the TV spectators, saying his family brought him up not to envy the rich, but to pull himself up by the bootstraps.

With the media whirlwind bearing down on him, Kaladze tried to set things straight by digging into his deep pocket to gift an apartment to the father and son on the now-iconic photo (in his earlier media offensive, Kaladze claimed these two were just bystanders). In a second act, he unveiled “The city full of solidarity” as a holiday slogan for Tbilisi (ironically, that PR line appears to have preceded the demolition).

The story did spark a debate about the scale of homelessness and poverty. Will they be forgotten amid festivities? Politically, Mr. Kaladze must hope so.

UNCHAINED Tea Tsulukiani, the longest-serving Minister under the Georgian Dream’s rule, often wore her mantle at the helm of the Justice Ministry with inquisitor’s zeal. Her surprise descent from Mount Olympus to a meager MP committee head could do little to dampen the ambers of faith. Mrs. Tsulukiani strikes into the very hearts of the wicked and the infidels – that is the United National Movement.

Nika Gvaramia, a loose-tongued head of Mtavari Arkhi TV, seen as UNM’s mouthpiece, makes an ideal target. Commenting on the allegations by Gvaramia that his family was under illegal surveillance, Mrs. Tsulukiani sarcastically wondered, what “sleeping beauty” is Mr. Gvaramia protecting with such fervor. She also seemed to equate journalists’ attacks on the government to the official’s threatening remarks addressed at the media.

The former justice minister’s vitriol is only equaled by The Dispatch’s all-time champion of vain partisan sniping, MP Irakli Kobakhidze. In his recent remarks, Mr. Kobakhidze said the opposition suffered from “apparent qualitative inferiority of intellect” (compared to himself, obviously), which prevents it from coming to power.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED Forget the good Samaritan, standing up for the oppressed may get you kicked out of the Church in Georgia. So learned Tamriko Chokhonelidze, a singer whom Georgians have loved and respected since her childhood. Speaking on TV Pirveli yesterday, Chokhonelidze was choking back tears recounting that this year she was prevented from singing a traditional Christmas Choral at Tbilisi’s main Holy Trinity Cathedral, which apparently came after she publicly condemned the violence and bullying on the basis of race, religion – and most importantly – sexual orientation. If someone, as known and loved as this singer, is subjected to public humiliation for speaking up for the oppressed, what could it be like to actually be queer in Georgia? That’s a real question in the Christmas spirit…

RIGHTS TRUMP LOOKS The idea that facades are overrated, particularly amid more important struggles, was again echoed in the Constitutional Court’s ruling from December 11. The case, argued by the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, disputed normative provisions that ban property owners from temporarily placing (or allowing others to place) posters, banners, and slogans as part of a spontaneous protest on surfaces (like windows, or balconies) that are not dedicated for this purpose.

The judges found the provision unconstitutional, drawing on earlier Court practices when freedom of expression through placing visual media on private property could not be outweighed by claims of protecting the outward appearance of buildings or neighborhoods.

PLAY IT, SAM… Of all the parliaments in all the world, she walks into ours… Eliso Bolkvadze, piano virtuoso, the newly minted MP from the Georgian Dream, leaves no day without leaving the mark of her sharp wits. Only days ago, she was saying Paris poor had it hard too, so the Georgian ones can’t complain. Today, she suggested bringing a grand piano into the parliament: “I would play it too. isn’t it better when Mozart and Beethoven are heard in these halls?! There would be more spirituality, more harmony would reign in this law-making organization, which the parliament is.”

You’d say, “Oh, good, at least she seems to have captured the functional essence of her new job?: Not so fast! Added MP Bolkvadze: “we could start many other things. I think modernization is afoot, people are advancing. It is 21st century outside and some cliches characteristic to the last century, or even to 50 years ago, even 2 years ago, can be reviewed in the future.”

Ah, but the fundamental things apply/As time goes by.

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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