The Dispatch

The Dispatch – December 18

Rumors of Kobakhidze’s Ascension – PM Submits List of Ministers – Yet Another Girchi Party Announced – Health Minister vs Business Interests – Russia Mistreats Abkhaz MPs – Tskhinvali’s Overseas Letters

DARK KNIGHT TO RISE AGAIN? Rumors send the media abuzz that the ruling party’s patron Bidzina Ivanishvili considered his job done, and planned to withdraw back to his shell – leaving party’s executive secretary Irakli Kobakhidze as his successor. Kobakhidze promptly denied the reports, however, seeing his zeal in bashing the opposition, who’d be surprised?! The rumors of future ascension (or fall from grace) tend to materialize under the Georgian Dream.

Kobakhidze already rose as the Parliament Chair but was “scapegoated” for welcoming Russian vice-speaker  Gavrilov into Tbilisi parliament chair in 2019. It was Giorgi Gakharia – then-Interior Minister – who rose to PM despite the bloody dispersal of the “Gavrilov night” protests. But despite the fall from grace, Kobakhidze did not spend long in the doghouse: his loyalty was rewarded and he served as GD campaign chief for the past general elections. Kobakhidze also presented the controversial bill that would strip the boycotting opposition parties of state funding.

DON’T CHANGE HORSES MID-STREAM PM Gakharia presented today his new old cabinet. The only significant change so far concerns Tea Tsulukiani, but here, too the change is mundane – his deputy will be taking the reins. The new government’s program is titled Towards Building a European Stateand promises to lay “institutional, economic and social” groundwork to “apply for EU’s full membership” in 2024.

MITOSIS Splitting is not quitting: we learned this from the story of the United National Movement and its spin-offs. Zurab Japaridze, leader of the right-libertarian Girchi (“Pine-cone”) responded to the mutiny in the party ranks announcing that he’d form another party – with an identical logo and almost identical name of “Girchi – More Freedom.” The two Pinecones pray at the altar of the free market, but what about the copyright? None of the leaders ever claimed it, Japaridze said (you decide whether it’s a leftist or libertarian thing to say).

NO CURE FOR GREED One has to sympathize with Ekaterine Tikaradze, fresh-faced Health Minister – upon appointment last June, little she knew that she’d be dealing with an unprecedented healthcare emergency months later. But she is determined to defend her terrain against enemies foreign and domestic: in a radio interview, Minister said some rich figures, even in the ruling party, “who may not hold high-ranking offices,” try to push her out to promote “big business interests.” The remarks come on the heels of rumors of bickering with PM Gakharia. It’s also no secret, that the billionaire-owned Georgian Dream has some millionaires to accommodate. Yet, in Georgia’s current political leadership it is loyalty to the boss that trumps business and political interest. Let’s watch this space.

ABUSIVE PARTNER Russia appears to be burning some bridges on Psou River – figuratively speaking, so far. Valeriy Kvarchia, who chairs occupied Abkhazia’s legislature, complained that Russian FSB border guards harass Abkhaz MPs. According to Kvarchia, in one of the latest episodes, an Abkhaz MP was reportedly “invited for a conversation” at the “Psou” checkpoint on his way to Russia, was interrogated about his political activities and his personal life for two hours, and was released upon fingerprinting. Such acts are unacceptable and harm “alliance and strategic partnership” with Russia, Kvarchia said. It is known – Moscow’s tight embrace is often indistinguishable from the chokehold.

LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP Hardly anything can be more heartwarming than love letters written by Kremlin-backed Tskhinvali authorities to the tiny pacific island of Nauru to mark the 11th anniversary of “diplomatic relations.” In a letter directed at Nauru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Finances, Tskhinvali “MFA” spoke of enrichment of bilateral relations through growing interaction across “the entire range of bilateral agenda” (one wonders…), and expressed confidence in continued “constructive Ossetian – Nauruan dialogue.”

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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