The Dispatch

The Dispatch – February 1

President Looking for an Echo — Bailed Cartographers Mobbed — Something Afoot in Police — Flush with Dignity

NOT READY TO LET GO Tomorrow, February 2, the Georgian Dream majority in the Parliament will have to vote to annul the votes of the opposition, according to their own request. President Salome Zurabishvili – everyone’s president, as she loves to identify herself – decided to intervene on the eve and call on the opposition not to rush into something they are going to regret, underscoring their responsibility before their voters, and the need for an active criticism in the parliamentary work. She was altogether less demanding towards the GD, asking the majority to give the opposition a little more time to think. And, of course, fresh from her Brussels trip, President Zurabishvili stressed that this is what the EU wants.

STAY THRILLED A press briefing at the GD office followed soon. MP Mamuka Mdinaradze said a firm decision in this respect had been made by the political council – but the party won’t reveal it until it is presented to the parliamentary majority. Oh, the cliffhanger!

ENEMY OF THE STATE The ordeal of two civil servants who’ve been dragged to court on charges of conspiring to cede land to Azerbaijan continues, even after their release on bail from pre-trial custody. The unfortunate turn of phrase from one of them, Iveri Melashvili, at the TV appearance was torn out of context and unleashed into one smear campaign on social media and TV, which seems to involve, among others, public servants and ruling party-affiliated persons. The prosecutors quickly noted that they would want Mr. Melashvili back in prison, for at least 15 years, on treason charges. Former Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, who now chairs the parliament’s culture committee, said Melashvili has been testifying against himself. The Public TV aired an incendiary report yesterday, giving ample airtime to the Defense Minister and his officials, as well as the clerics, who led the charge against the two civil servants from the Foreign Ministry. Not surprisingly, video footage surfaced today showing Mr. Melashvili verbally assaulted in a shopping center by a young man, who called him a traitor and called his imprisonment. The government does not seem inclined to calm the emotions – quite the contrary. The case has been used to fan nationalistic fires, as the matter of sovereign control over parts of David Gareji – an ancient Georgian monastery – is brought to dominate the rhetoric.

TESTING LOYALTY The Ministry of Interior recently fired three inspectors in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. They have allegedly misused the personal data obtained through professional channels and passed them to a “representative of an opposition party.” The information in question was later aired by one of the TV channels, the Ministry noted. The rumors also say that recently the Ministry of Interior may have been questioning the loyalty of the subordinates at the higher levels as well – this is why Minister Gomelauri allegedly moved to replace some of the regional police chiefs.

SAPPING SUPPORT? The regional police reshuffle led some journalists to directly question PM Gakharia, who previously served as the Minister of Interior, whether the carousel was a sign of his loyalists being purged. Gakharia dodged the question, saying the rotation is a normal practice. But the question was far from naive: it builds on persistent rumors that PM Gakharia will soon be yielding his seat to someone… post-War consiglieri?! Or a harbinger of another crusade? That is the question.

DIRT REVISITED Georgian thought has been growing in a series of philosophical debates lately. The latest episode delved into question: can you throw trash at people as a part of legitimate political debate? (If you are curious: the runner-up consensus answer – it depends (on whether they throw garbage at people whose ideas you like, or not)).  And here we go again with the next episode, this time involving toilets. To be more precise – public toilets at the municipality, and to be even more to the point – whether the high school pupils can be mobilized to clean the local government’s toilets. The chattering masses were set a-twitter after a controversial video emerged allegedly depicting schoolchildren cleaning the Municipality Hall’s restroom in the Chkhorotskhu municipality. Many said in doing so, the teachers who led this Herculean endeavor infringed upon children’s dignity. Simon Janashia, a respected Georgian educational expert, warned against jumping to conclusions.  Does the voluntary activity of cleaning toilets necessarily have to be seen as degrading, he asked? What about people who make their living fulfilling such duties? It is all good and well, but it seems most Georgians associate any such “voluntary” duties performed at school with schoolmasters diktat rather than civic-minded duty.

That’s all for today, we’d get back with the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics on Wednesday!

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