The ruling Georgian Dream party came under fire as footage emerged of its leaders attending a curfew-defying party, reportedly late on February 23, the day of the controversial arrest of top opposition leader Nika Melia.
The video aired by the government critical Mtavari Arkhi TV shows GD members and leaders, including party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, feasting in a luxurious mansion, allegedly located in Tbilisi’s uphill Tskneti suburb and owned by millionaire GD MP Anton Obolashvili.
According to Mtavari Arkhi, the party that continued into the curfew hours – effective daily from 21:00 to 05:00 to contain COVID spread – also included other MPs as well as businesspeople close to MP Obolashvili.
The report came shocking for many since it was earlier on the same day when the police storming of the United National Movement headquarters to arrest UNM Chair Nika Melia escalated the ongoing political crisis, sparked street protests, and attracted international criticism.
Partying during the curfew hours -imposed by the very same Georgian Dream Government – added to the controversy, as breaking the rule costs a solid GEL 2,000 (USD 600) fine to the ordinary Georgians.
The Government maintains the curfew since late November, refusing to yield to the numerous cancellation demands. Curfew opponents say the measure interferes with their daily routines and negatively affects business activities, as well as restricts freedom of expression by making it harder to attend the ongoing anti-government rallies. The Government in turn argued the need to decrease mobility in a bid to slow the virus spread.
The freshly elected Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on February 24 lifting most of the lockdown restrictions, except for the curfew, which was indefinitely prolonged.
MP with Two Birth Dates
Speaking with the Mtavari Arkhi TV on the night of the party, MP Obolashvili said it was his birthday rather than Melia’s arrest that his guests were celebrating. The video showing Mayor Kaladze openly congratulating Obolashvili upon leaving the feast was supposed to confirm MP’s excuse.
The birthdate of the MP, however, soon stirred further controversy on social media. While some netizens posted copies of MP Obolashvili’s older IDs confirming February 23 as his birthday, other official open databases, including that of the Parliament, show the lawmaker’s birthday falling on March 1.
The lockdown-defying activities by the government officials have been subjected to criticism worldwide, as some politicians had to face consequences for their misconduct.
A notorious example includes Hungarian conservative MEP József Szájer who had to quit after being caught breaking lockdown in Brussels to attend a sex party in December last year. Earlier, in August 2020, Irish Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary also resigned after attending a golf dinner with more than 80 people against lockdown rules.