The Dispatch

The Dispatch – May 7/8: Awakenings

(Another) Businessman Enters Politics – More Physical Violence in Church – Presidential Veto That Wasn’t – More Workers Strike Across Georgia – Public Defender on Discriminatory Social Policies – Rumors on Navalny’s Comrades Moving to Georgia

Greetings from Georgia, where past days were marked by the feared awakening of ultra-conservatives, failed awakening of Presidential checks, and a relatively successful awakening of workers. Follow through all important updates with the Dispatch and Nini, the operator.

Return of the Knight

  • NEW ONE The dismal performance by the Alliance of Patriots Party of Georgia in the October 2020 elections, which landed only 4 parliamentary seats (and even there, party leaders ceded these to the financial sponsors) left some void in the right-wing political field. Enter Levan Vasadze, the ultra-conservative businessman happy to brandish his anti-liberal and homophobic views, is pals with Russian loony-ideologist Aleksandr Dugin, and holds Knighthood from Georgia’s carnivalesque Royal Family. He said he’d run a new party, called “Unity, Essence, Hope” (which abbreviates into Georgian word for “nation”). Big fortune, eloquence, large family, fascination with national costumes, patriotic toasts, and nice hair are expected to bring much political luck in Georgia. But will they?
  • HAIR ISN’T EVERYTHING Neither is money. A well-dressed rich man appearing to get people’s trust will have to struggle to be taken seriously first. Take Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his successful move after years of prior backstage dealings, and winning friends and allies through charitable activities. Or take another nativist politician, Irma Inashvili, who had years of media host experience and some political appeal as a capable “woman next door” who’ll fix your problems whenever you get in trouble. Vasadze is more of a buffoon, but those tend to be surprisingly performant these days. More about Vasadze’s “colorful” political and media persona here.
  • WHERE’S THE CHURCH? It is dealing with its own disputes, which have been growing increasingly violent recently. The latest such story from the Ruisi-Urbnisi diocese in Shida Kartli is about Archpriest Teimuraz who said he was physically assaulted by a parishioner who took offense at Archpriest’s words spoken against the Bishop of Surami and Khashuri. The Archpriest claims the matter is settled now – he said he asked for forgiveness, so outsiders better mind their own businesses.
  • LETTING THE DEMONS OUT Some days ago clergymen were accused of physically and verbally attacking journalists and Iveri Melashvili, one of the state experts charged for land concessions to Azerbaijan. Disinformation and the government’s smear campaign through the loyal media have triggered this assault, observers say. Irakli Absandze, who hosts the “Interview of the Week” show on the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GBP), slammed the recent documentary “Truth about David Gareji”, which aired on GBP. He pointed an accusatory finger at his own colleagues, saying they contributed to fanning the campaign of hate. The historians heavily criticized the documentary, saying it was not grounded in historical fact and took a heavily biased viewpoint.

A PHANTOM VETO Two days of consultations of President Salome Zurabishvili with representatives of the government and the opposition created murmurs that she’d take out the veto stamp for the first time for the controversial amendments to the Code of Administration Offenses which, strengthen penalties for disobeying the police. The hopes – if there were any – were dashed, as the President conceded today that the amendments were rushed, but refused to veto. The incumbent President is clearly trying to balance the veto average with her predecessor, who was happy when it came to brandishing the stamp – not that it helped – the Georgian Dream always overcame this hurdle.

STRIKEDEMIC It looks like strikes spread like wildfire throughout the country: after hundreds of workers at least partly had their way in Chiatura and Rustavi, now it’s the turn of those involved in the construction of major cross-country highway at Rikoti pass, connecting Eastern and Western parts of Georgia. Over 200 workers are reportedly on strike and hold continuous rallies, demanding a 30% pay rise. The company in charge suggests they go to a negotiating table. In the meantime, the employees at a flour factory in Ozurgeti, Guria region, are also dissatisfied and want a pay rise by GEL 200 (USD 60). The company says it is currently impossible due to the general economic hardship, local media reported.

MANY FACES OF DISCRIMINATION A new report prepared by the Public Defender of Georgia says local self-government bodies take discriminatory approaches in developing social programs. Often, people with the same needs are excluded from vital assistance programs on the basis of their types of disability, age, marriage status, nationality, or other grounds. The programs, for example, follow and further encourage stereotypical views towards men and women, while the policies for the disabled exclusively focus on persons with profound disabilities or those belonging to a certain age group.

POPPY-HOLIDAYS Sota Vision, a Russia-based internet edition focusing on opposition agenda, suggested up to 40 key members of Navalny-founded Anti-Corruption Foundation have fled to Georgia amidst the ongoing trials to mark the foundation as an extremist organization. To prove the point, the outlet shows public Instagram images featuring prominent Georgian landscapes, including the poppy field in Kvemo Kartli, which has become a favorite short-trip destination for many Georgians on warm spring days. Interestingly, the authors marked these spots as areas within Russian borders, e.g. in North Caucasus. Perhaps, they were aiming to confuse their Kremlin minders, but Georgians are unlikely to be amused by such “appropriation”.

According to the Meduza agency, Navalny’s comrade-in-arms Leonid Volkov called the reports “purely fake news” but declined further comments. Soon, however, other reports followed that Navalny’s foundation is even planning to move part of its broadcasting and staff to Georgia amid the restrictions imposed due to ongoing trials., a Russian media agency, cited several sources “close to the foundation,” claiming some of them have already moved to the country.

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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