The Dispatch

The Dispatch – May 12/13: Undecided

UNM Agonises over Ending Boycott – No Longer Buddies: Smaller Fish Fears Frying – Ugulava Caught into Justice Gears (Again) – Flamethrower Irakli is Back – Villagers in Chiatura Sew Up Lips in Protest – Batumi Teenager Alleges Police Abuse

Greetings from Georgia! As days get hotter, the weeks ahead predict temperatures even higher. The fog of political uncertainty sets in after months of battle. It is the time of the new alliances. Let us guide you through as various actors try to find their way into the post-deal future.

The Dispatch and Nini, the operator, provide updates for all things relevant and bizarre happening in the country. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil  

Before They Move On…

WHAT NOW? Chairman Nika Melia returns to his political family and finds the United National Movement in disarray. The party is agonizing over ending the boycott. The prominent lady leaders, such as Khatia Dekanoidze, are for joining. She argues the party should enter the parliament to maintain international support (there are indeed persistent calls to take up the MP seats) and to keep the prospects of opposition unity in upcoming locals open. Akaki Minashvili, who somewhat unexpectedly stole the leadership during Melia’s jail time,  said he is against signing the EU-mediated April 19 agreement, claiming it would deceive the voters by going back on a promise not to legitimize the rigged elections.

LET ZUCKERBERG DECIDE! Another UNM leader who advocated for getting into the chambers, Salome Samadashvili, and even joined the parliament without waiting for the colleagues, officially quit the party today, after having talked to the released chairman. Mr. Melia has been quoted as considering a Facebook polling prior to the final decision – something that got him elected as a Chairman months ago. This might come off as odd to most, but any idea of a consultation sounds like a good one, in a country with no established party democracy culture.

UNITY IS PRISON As a curious side-effect of the joint boycott, smaller opposition parties have broken free from UNMs diktat. They no longer have to prove they are the REAL opposition. But they show little enthusiasm for standing together, clearly fed up with pretending they have much in common. There is talk against naming the joint candidates for the local polls slated for October. Melia – who is favored by his party as the joint front-runner – will consult the opposition parties. The consensus-building has never been UNM’s strong suit, and we are curious to see whether Melia can break that mold.

BACK TO COURT Gigi Ugulava, former Tbilisi Mayor and Ex-Leader of European Georgia already made history by serving two jail terms for the same crime. Now he says yet another court trial was scheduled on May 13. The case, which Ugulava, the defendant, claims is politically motivated, concerns the controversial incident from December 2019 at the Tbilisi International Airport. The prosecutors argue that Ugulava physically abused one Badri Gavashelishvili, who happens to be a judo champion. Read here about the incident.

IN TODAY’S VOCABULARY: It must have been hard for the Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze to keep low(er) profile during the talks mediated by EU high dignitaries. Now he is back and his flamethrower is glowing: no, there are no “political prisoners” in Georgia, but dixit Kobakhidze, there are – “political criminals”. He coined the term and, boy, he likes to use it with some gusto: today he branded Nika Melia as an “intellectually impaired political criminal.” Judging by earlier practice, other GD members may parrot the Chairman’s freshly minted moniker. Or is it for his own personal use?

Regional Plights

LIFE WITH NO SOLID GROUND Several residents of Shukruti village of Chiatura municipality, Imereti region, have sewed their lips in protest going for over 80 days. They demand compensation for the industrial impact on their habitats.  More specifically, mining works in the village carried out by the “Georgian Manganese” company allegedly led the soil in the area to sink, destroying orchards and homes in the area, and forcing part of residents out of the village. According to the video report prepared by regional media, the situation makes some 70% of Shukruti homes unlivable, and families who stay fear for their lives every night, lest the earth swallow them up.

SHOWING FORCE Disturbing report of police abuse come from the seaside: a teenager from the city of Batumi claims he and two other minors were abducted by police and who threatened them with “putting bullets through their knees”. Reportedly the police first detained the youths for breaking the Covid curfew in the street. But the abduction reportedly happened the next morning, after curfew was lifted – the same officers are said to have come back to pick them up again in the street, got them into the car, and circled around the city intimidating them. Finally, they were dropped at the city’s outskirts. Much rings strange about this story, and we hope a proper internal investigation will follow.

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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