The Dispatch

The Dispatch – December 23

GD to Seek International Legitimacy for Sanctions Bill – President’s New Controversy – Patriot to Desert Boycott – Kaladze’s Demolition Continues – Ministers Talk Next Year’s Plans 

FORGET FOUCAULT MP Irakli Kobakhidze has been reaching new academic heights in punishment studies, except that it is now called “incentive.” Commenting on his controversial bill aimed to sanction boycotting opposition parties, including through withdrawing state funding, Düsseldorf alumnus said the bill (approved in the 1st hearing) intends to motivate the parties to end their “sabotage,” rather than punish them. The slight problem is that the opposition uncovered Mr. Kobakhidze’s book “The Law of Political Entities,” dating back to 2008, where he argues “it is inadmissible to deny a political party state funding for boycotting the parliament.” Mr. Kobakhidze has not commented on this yet. But we guess as a lawyer you go into politics when you can feel comfortable standing for both sides of the argument.

The ruling party will seek to legitimize the bill by requesting opinions of the OSCE/ODIHR and/or the Venice Commission. Earlier, the Georgian Dream made a similar move when it applied for the Venice Commission opinion regarding the controversial courts’ reform – but then adopted the amendments without waiting for the response.

ALL ABOARD THE PEACE TRAIN President Salome Zurabishvili did it again. Speaking at the ambassadorial conference, she (again) cheered the “restoration of peace” in South Caucasus after the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation and expressed regrets that Georgia was left out of the peace efforts. More pertinently, the President went on expressing confidence that “Georgia will be neither passive nor secondary to the initiative of the Caucasus Platform” – referring to the idea floated by Ankara to bring together Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and – why not – Armenia, into a regional platform that would shut the western players out.

Following the Twitter and media turmoil, President Zurabishvili released a clarifying statement, saying her remarks had nothing to do with Erdogan, but rather echoed her own earlier peace initiatives.

BUSINESS QUOTAS As other parties rushed to find enough women to fill the 25% party-list quotas this year, it seems that the nativist Alliance of Patriots party – led by a woman – felt comfortable getting other “underrepresented” groups into the chamber – namely the businesspeople. Commenting on the unilateral move by Avtandil Enukidze, party’s #4, to consider defying the parliamentary boycott, party leader Irma Inashvili said he represented “a business component” in the party list – meaning he was a contributor. The remaining three MPs, whom Inashvili presented as  “political components,” will boycott, she assured the supporters.

CITY LIGHTS Despite the earlier backlash, Tbilisi Mayor seems to continue a series of pre-New Year demolitions of unregistered homes – ignoring the plight of those who could remain homeless. Residents of Tbilisi’s Samgori district woke up on December 23 to the sound of bulldozer engines and saw scores of enforcers at their doorsteps. From the seven buildings taken down that day, locals claim, two were occupied by the families who were evicted. One of these families reportedly left their provincial dwelling to seek jobs in the capital. Apart from the homelessness and social disparity, the razing of unregistered dwellings brought the regional disparities into a sharp focus.

YEAR AHEAD Parliamentary committee hearings of the minister candidates prior to their confirmation were anticlimactic – no big surprise since the opposition is absent. There were some tidbits of information though: ambitious armament plans presented by the Defense Minister Garibashvili include, for example, purchasing tactical reconnaissance and combat drones. Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri reportedly voiced plans to revise visa policies with “some countries,” citing “serious problems” for Georgia.

Health Minister Tikaradze spoke about prospects of delivering the first COVID-19 vaccines as early as in February-March next year and even pledged to introduce new measures for countering the uncontrollable rise of medication prices (she did complain earlier, that some of her own party’s “business components” were not happy with that…)

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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