Ultra-conservative businessman Levan Vasadze, known for his hardline homophobic and xenophobic stance, hosted a rally in Tbilisi on May 16, where he outlined the plans of his new public movement – Unity, Essence, Hope – abbreviated in Georgian as ERI, meaning nation.
Addressing his supporters at downtown Tbilisi’s Giorgi Leonidze Park (former Alexander’s Garden), Vasadze said the movement is soon to become a political party to tackle the “desperate” situation the country faces. “The country has no patron,” Vasadze remarked, and noted that Georgia is afflicted by injustice, impunity, a “spineless” government as well as disrespectful attitudes toward “our traditions, dignity, and values.”
Vasadze said instead of following the principle of “Georgia above all,” the country’s “political elite” set “foreign guiding lines [policy goals]” as the major goal. “We are neither against Europe, not the U.S., or any civilized country. I [just] do not wish to live in a country, where the political elite remains dumbed, not saying… Georgia above all.”
Speaking of the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions, Vasadze said as a “desperate pragmatist” he believes Georgia has to talk to the “occupier” as the country cannot reclaim the two regions by force.
In his address, Vasadze also referred to the controversial Namakhvani Hydropower Plant project, facing massive protest in western Georgia’s Imereti and Lechkhumi regions. He expressed outrage over the deal between the state and the investor signed by “bureaucrats.” The businessman-turned-politician said the HPP construction should commence only in case of the locals’ approval, and if so, should be built and owned by the government.
During his 70-minute speech, he also highlighted economic, social and demographic issues, claiming that Georgia has 400,000 drug and 700,000 gambling addicts, but only 18,000 sportsmen. The notorious homophobe also asserted that “public propaganda of perversion” shall be prohibited, and urged Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili not to allow LGBT rights rallies.