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The Dispatch

The Dispatch – December 25

67% of Georgians Have Loans – Boycotting MPs Attacked with Salaries – School Classes Stir Controversy – Tskhinvali Extends Detention for Georgian – Preliminary Results of UNM Chair Polls

***Seasons Greetings and Merry Christmas to all of our readers who celebrate today!***

LES MISERABLES Georgian authorities often flaunt the country getting top marks for economic freedom in international rankings. The ugly flipside of that coin was revealed as Koba Gvenetadze, Head of the National Bank of Georgia, told the parliament today that 67% of Georgians are burdened with bank loans, a historic high and one of the leading ones worldwide. The share of non-performing loans has also risen from 4,4% from the end of 2019 to 8% now, and this trend is bound to continue, Gvenetadze said. No wonder it has become a good electoral tactic for the Georgian Dream to write off bad debts.

FORCE FEEDING Opposition MPs that are boycotting the Parliament got paid their parliamentary salaries – against their will. In what seems to be a cunning bid for luring the recalcitrant representatives into the chambers, their bank accounts got replenished just as shopping malls reopen ahead of the New Year celebrations. Who could resist the temptation of overspending? Nato Chkheidze, former MP from the Patriot’s Alliance who jumped ship to UNM was seen wondering whether to give the GEL 4,500 (USD 1,380) in salaries back. The government would use it for corrupt schemes, she asserted, so perhaps, one should keep the cash? Mrs. Chkheidze is believed to have millions in her assets. She could transfer it back anytime she wants, the Parliament staff clarified. Some MPs, like Helen Khoshtaria, already did.

TEACHERS AND PREACHERS As schools moved online amid the lockdown, some dubious curricular activities came to light. The teachers in Tbilisi and Rustavi reportedly have been mobilizing their pupils for years to attend “homeland studies” classes which are ostensibly based on Orthodox Christian teachings – or so their professors – often acted with the Georgian Orthodox Church’s blessing believe. Georgia’s Ombudsperson strongly disagrees, saying the classes peddle discriminatory views and can be considered religious indoctrination and proselytizing. The class goes against the legally prescribed principle of schooling based on religious neutrality and non-discrimination, the Public Defender argues. Remains to be seen, whether the opium for the masses continues to be zoomed into households.

PROTRACTED INHUMANITY Holiday spirit is evading the Kremlin-backed authorities in Tskhinvali, who have just extended by 2 months the pre-trial detention of  Zaza Gakheladze, a Georgian citizen who was shot and detained near the occupation line in July this year. Local strongman Anatoly Ilyich Bibilov ignores the lessons from the consequences he had faced for the mistreatment of detainees before, it appears.

CROWNED BY FACEBOOK We have already discussed how the United National Movement directed its r-E-volutionary spirit towards the intra-party democracy and went to elect the new chair through Facebook polling. Now, as “polling stations” have closed nationwide, Nika Melia appears to be leading with 64,9% to 35,1% over Levan Varshalomidze, former Adjara region head. Do not rush to congratulate the winner yet, however, as the election commission is doing some thorough checks to make sure no election-rigging by trolls and bots had taken place.

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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