Danielsson’s Second Coming & Biblical Lines – Georgia’s Civil Society at Odds – Vaccination Crisis & Search for Ways out – Georgia to Chair International Organization – Meta-Cultural Struggles
Greetings from Georgia, where the old is dying and the new cannot be born: this is why past days here have been all about Second Comings. The Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are here in these trying times to update you about developments on the ground. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil
THE MISSIONARY Death and pestilence these days are naturally coordinated with multiple [politically] dead men walking. The Georgian Orthodox Church – undoubtedly an expert on the matter – confirmed: the rapture and the Second Coming are imminent. Yet, so far, we only saw the second coming of the European Council President’s Special Envoy Christian Danielsson. He is back to the promised land of compromise. It will take some divine intervention and he will need saintly patience to bring Georgia’s politicians together. But he is a true messiah or an impostor?! Herein is the day’s dramatic question.
THOU SHALT COMPROMISE As the European diplomat holds meetings with parties involved, he has already thrown some biblical lines: “Now there is a need for political courage, there is a need for compromise, and let me underline that compromise is not weakness, compromise is strength, compromise is a sign of the democracy in Georgia working and the compromise is the European way,” he preached. It does sound like a campaign to re-socialize a bunch of guys who were taught to suppress their emotions and discouraged from showing weakness and vulnerabilities in early toxic years – let’s hope the efforts will bear fruit, but we know, it is a process.
DEFLOAT While the world celebrates the Ever Given container ship defloating in Suez Canal, things remain stuck in Georgia: in his latest remarks, PM Garibashvili said snap elections – opposition’s key demand – are off the table. As for “political prisoners” things are even murkier – if you trust the UNM, an obscure benefactor approached the Prosecutor’s office volunteering to pay bail for the release of Nika Melia, the party’s jailed leader. Melia’s lawyer says it is a moot point, Melia’s bail has been changed to imprisonment and the prosecution has no legal right to row it back: it would need to cease the court with a demand to release Melia. Danielsson tries to sound stern: “Tomorrow, I will put a text on the table. The aim is to build a sustainable framework for the future,” he promised.
PRIORITIES… Georgian society, political parties, a landslide in Tbilisi, and now it’s apparently civil society’s turn to show some cracks: in their attempts to weigh in and offer their suggestions on ways out of the crisis, civil society groups disagree. Some of the key watchdogs, which later personally consulted with Danielsson, have offered to focus on judicial and election reforms first, leaving snap elections for parties to decide. Others strongly disagree, drafting a petition saying early elections are key to overcome the crisis.
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE Georgians are used to regard the civil society, which has been a steady player on the local political agenda over at least the past decade, as a unified force rather than institutions representing diverse views. This was perhaps never really true, and the internal debates were going on. But public spat is something unusual. Some worry, it may harm their public image. On the other hand, to borrow a little bit of Danielsson’s philosophy: debates, disagreements, diversity of views are not a weakness, but rather a solid foundation for what may become a powerful collective action. Perhaps CSOs will have to stop acting like an ersatz opposition and just strive to enrich the debate, channeling their constituent’s (and experts’) views.
HEALTH MATTERS FIRST Two weeks have passed since Georgia (finally) launched vaccination, but less than 5,000 showed up to get their jab. People are particularly cautious about AztraZeneca vaccines, that has been suspended in several countries to investigate rare cases of blood clotting. But even though the link was not conclusively proven, Georgians were spooked by a young nurse dying after taking the shot. Publicly known figures are called up to promote the campaign, and the first volunteers included politician Roman Gotsiridze, former Diplomat Gela Charkviani, and Public Defender Nino Lomjaria. They all got AstraZeneca shots. Pfizer vaccine has more success – all 29 000 shots have been reportedly booked.
WHY IT HAS TO END In the meantime, a petition came out asking to create a substitute volunteer list to avoid wasting the doses from opened vials, should those with vaccine appointments fail to show up. The pandemic continues to affect everyone, but vulnerable groups in particular: the World Bank recently warned the pandemic risks widening gender gaps in Georgia. At present, Georgia’s gender gap in labor force participation stands at 19 percentage points, while the wage gap results in men earning 16 percent more than women – the reputed international organization notes, and it is not the first to deliver the message.
PACKED WITH OLIVES In today’s good news: Parliamentary Speaker Archil Talakvadze was quoted as saying that Georgia will now chair the International Olive Council, the world’s only international intergovernmental organization in the field of olive oil and table olives. Well, maybe, by intensifying olive production, Georgians will also learn how to properly cultivate some other Greek-associated cultures, such as genuine democracy.
SPEAKING OF CULTURE… Eliso Bolkvadze, who recently retired from piano career to politics, plans now as a parliamentary Culture Committee Chair to conduct what she calls a “meta-analysis” of culture and creative branches in Georgia over the past few years – to use it in defining the future priorities. Good luck to her, since this area would truly use more attention. Students of Theater and Film Georgia State University, for example, got recently upset, as the university refused to put online the pieces they directed as part of the student movie festival. The administration allegedly said such pieces would harm the prestige of the university. Students disagree, saying it is the fair treatment of its students that makes a university prestigious. They staged a performance, writing the names of their censored pieces on balloons to let them in the air – just like their labor “went up in the air,” they say.
That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!