The Dispatch

The Dispatch – Through the Looking Glass – February 17

Women from the First Republic – Ruling Party Chair to Get Freedom Award – Cloak and Dagger – GD’s Kobakhidze Blames Foul Language on Opposition – Political Sniping Moves to Twitter – Georgians Crash the Seasonal Jobs Website

Good evening from snowy Tbilisi. Some in Georgia are stuck in traffic, but all of us are stuck in a debilitating political crisis. It just got worse, as the judge announced her decision to send Nika Melia, Chairman of the largest opposition party, to pre-trial detention. Follow our website for updates on that story. Undoubtedly, our next Dispatch will be full of all the madness that surrounds it.

But let us start from more picturesque:

BACK TO THE FUTURE Let’s recall those happier days of the Georgian democracy. Just as progressive women complain about being ignored, let us remember the role that social-democrat women once played in Georgia’s First Republic (1918-1921). It was on February 14-16, 1919, when five Georgian social-democrat women made it to the Constituent Assembly – the first freely elected parliament under universal suffrage.

From left to right: Ana (Ola) Sologhashvili (1882-1937), Eleonora Ter-Pharsegova-Makhviladze (1875 ‒?), Minadora Orjonikidze-Toroshelidze (1879-1967), Christine (Chito) Sharashidze (1887-1973), Elisabeth Nakashidze-Bolkvadze (1885-1937).

Proof positive, that history does not always have a linear vector, and we sometimes are compelled to look into the past to look for progress… Under Soviet occupation,  two of them were executed, while two others were sent into exile.

ORDEAL OF FREEDOM The Georgian Dream, which actually claims to be of a social-democratic creed (let’s forget the bothersome little fact of its oligarchic origins), tries to honor the past. However, to borrow an immortal dictum of the erstwhile Russian Prime Minister – they try to do their best, but end up as usual.  In a planned ceremony marking 100 years of adopting the Constitution, the ruling party is going to honor… its chair, MP Irakli Kobakhidze, with an Order of Freedom. Other than cheerleading the jailing of the opposition leader, Mr. Kobakhidze’s accomplishments include hard work on adapting Georgia’s constitution. Let us also recall that Mr. Kobakhidze has recovered his political fortunes in a Houdini-like maneuver, after being chosen to be his boss fall guy for the Gavrilov controversy. What a thirst for freedom, indeed.

CONTORTIONS Gavrilov is still haunting Georgia’s politics. When he came to Tbilisi, the opposition MP Helen Khoshtaria was among the ones jumping on the scene to force him out of the parliament chamber. All a clever trick of deception, believes Goga Khaindrava, Georgian movie director and famous author of anti-UNM propaganda movies. He says it was Khoshtaria, who was in cahoots with Gavrilov and staged the whole show to dump it at the Georgian Dream’s immaculate doorstep. Proof?! Hell, didn’t Ms. Khoshtaria go to school in Russia?! Alluding to opposition-Gavrilov linkage became the official party line for the Georgian Dream yesterday, as Mr. Gavrilov (embarrassingly for the ruling party) welcomed the vote to strip Mr. Melia of his MP immunity.  But Mr. Khaindrava whipped things up a notch. Artistic license – all totally understandable of course.

TRACTATUS LOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS Irakli Kobakhidze champions freedom but draws the line at profanity. Speaking on the talk show at the party mouthpiece, Imedi TV, the ruling party opined about Georgian identity – as any statesman should – and touched upon things that threaten it – as any politician would. Kobakhidze said, language, the “second pillar” of the national identity, is polluted by swear words. And he pinned the blame on TV series. He went further and said “a certain political force” (a euphemism for UNM?) has been “deliberately normalizing swearing on Georgian TV.”

FOLLOW THE LEADER Pack instinct is strong with GD. At the signal from the field commander, a bunch of GD-affiliated talking heads attending the same talk show started picking on “My Wife’s Girlfriends” – one of the most popular satirical Georgian TV Series aired by the opposition-leaning Formula TV. Vasil Maglaperidze, Kobakhidze’s deputy, took a wider angle and slammed foreign pulp, presumably a run-of-the-mill Indian and Turkish fare, run by local channels. Maglaperidze said their contents are in contrast with Georgia’s proclaimed European path and spoke of “deculturization”, “deintellectualization”, and “degradation”. To prove his case, the former public broadcaster head recalled some disturbing scenes quite incompatible with ideas of women’s emancipation. And while we happen to like our soaps gender-sanitized, the talk came too close to the “degenerate art” for our comfort.

#Trending For those readers who enjoy the show of strangers arguing on social media at 3 A.M. – we have a big announcement: Georgia’s Facebook wars may now (finally) be moving to Twitter. The government’s opponents were a little late to notice how comfortable and unchallenged some of the ruling party MPs (here’s looking at you, George Khelashvili) were in arguing their case on Twitter and thus “manipulating international perspective.” Well, we speak English too – the brave and brash youth of Tbilisi concluded and descended on GD rising stars with a prompt sh*tstorm. Now the Dreamers will have to enlist their troll army too. Vacancy announcements are on their way. Motivation letters not to exceed 280 characters!

UNDER HIS EYE When Mr. Ivanishvili announced his retirement from active politics, his social media ego was not, apparently, properly exorcised. His Facebook page came alive for a couple of days now, offering some “healthy” criticism of the ruling party policies. The former PM knows how to deliver on his democratic promises.

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER There is actually a much much bigger army available in Georgia, apparently with basic foreign language skills, lots of motivation, and no jobs. The employment portal to apply for seasonal harvest jobs in Germany was overwhelmed as over 50,000 applicants joined in just two days. COVID-19 has only added to all the existing economic hardship – and the political circus our elites have been offering all along does not come with enough bread, apparently. Some of the retired opposition politicians might be considering applying for those strawberry-picking jobs too. One problem though: judging by the vote harvesting skills they’ve demonstrated in the latest elections, they could hardly make the cut.

SUPRA ON MARS Reports resurface that Georgian researchers are looking for grape varieties that can grow in Martian soil. Best timing! Because the Georgian soil that was best to produce some notorious wines is soon going to be flooded by colossal HPP projects. Rejoice, little green men, and hone your Tamada skills!

In their latest effort, the activists brought the dangers of building a large-scale HPP in Western Georgia before the parliamentary economy committee. The MPs, however, decided not to bother themselves with the inquiries. They quickly forgot about their parliamentary control responsibilities and forwarded the petition to the executive – or the Ministries that have already been doing things wrongly, including by generously granting construction licenses. The parliament was obviously preoccupied with setting up a Potemkin commission to probe into vote fraud allegations by the opposition – but without that opposition participating. Well, they refuse of course. Because – boycott. Logical.

That’s all for today, we’d get back to you Friday as it is getting curiouser and curiouser here in town…

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