The Dispatch

The Dispatch – June 30/July 1: Finding Neutral

CEC Head Resigns: What’s Next? – Coca-Cola Tycoon Wanted as Mayor – Mixed Messages ahead of Pride Kick-Off – Namakhvani: Mediation Pending with Demands Unmet

With everybody in Georgia fed up with polarities, persons who are considered as somewhat “neutral” are the most sought after currently in politics. This quality, coupled with good management skills, will get you anywhere, so do not hesitate to file the applications as more positions get vacant. Here is Nini with updates from Georgia.

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June 30 started with the news of the resignation of Central Election Commission head Tamar Zhvania, which, though sudden, logically followed the adoption of Election Code amendments and initiation of relevant constitutional changes. The opposition, which has been demanding a change of CEC administration for months, does not believe it was her own decision: she told the media she was not going anywhere only days ago. The ruling party, in turn, claims Zhvania stood her ground against the election fraud allegations and says the opposition owes her an apology.

Things will move fast now: it will take several weeks till a new Chairperson gets Parliament’s approval, and the opposition may not have much say in who’ll be managing the landmark local elections in the coming October (click here to know why). So it is the public discussion that will make or break the candidates (with no guarantees that the broken one won’t get the job, though…)


It is not only in the CEC where a relatively neutral candidate is sought: after the Edison Research poll predicted that only a joint opposition candidate can beat the ruling party pick in the Tbilisi Mayor elections, the opposition has embarked on the quest for the chosen one: some of the smaller opposition parties may try to end their association with the UNM by proposing someone from the outside. Lelo for Georgia’s Mamuka Khazaradze, who came to politics after a successful banking career, has been dropping hints that someone with good entrepreneurial and international experience would fit the bill (someone a lot like himself, really…)

Bred, not Bread. But no, MP Khazaradze thinks he found the guy, and he is Temur Chkonia, Georgian Coca-Cola & McDonald’s tycoon, whom he described as “locomotive of Georgian business.” Mr. Chkonia, however, would rather be left in peace: his business is blossoming, it was days ago that he festively opened a bread factory supposed to supply MacDonald’s franchises across the Caucasus, and the only recent controversy on his record is when he lost it on Cristiano Ronaldo’s public Coca-Cola rejection, calling it a “dumb footballer’s gesture.” Tbilisi needs “Brad Pitt rather than Chkonia,” he was quoted as reacting to Khazaradze’s suggestion. So Lelo’s leader will have to look somewhere else while Chkonia is busy celebrating Portugal’s early departure from Euro 2020.


The Pride Week kicks off on July 1, and so do the plans for counter-rallies by hate groups. Politicians – wishing to sound right both to the western partners and the feared conservative groups (read The Church) still can’t get the message straight (no pun intended) either.  Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who hopes to run again in October, said he does not “find it reasonable” to hold the Pride March since “there are certain people, certain groups from both sides who can misuse it.” The freedom of expression is protected in the country, he added though, bizzarely. GD’s Mamuka Mdinaradze tread the same path: he called “any activity serving … provocative goals” damaging, adding that he was sure this view was shared by “the majority” of his team. Speaker Kakha Kuchava, in turn, was one of those few from the GD who stressed the responsibility of the state to protect freedom of expression and safety and warned against violence without slamming the pride organizers.

Aleko Elisashvili, leader of the opposition Citizens party: “Why are they holding this pride when it does not bring anything other than provoking waves of hate and contempt, other than a revival of pro-Russian forces, I simply do not understand,” he said. Labor’s Shalva Natelashvili somehow managed to end up on the right side of liberal democracy: even though he  identified himself as someone holding “traditional conservative values” he decried violence against minority groups, adding “the sexual orientation of citizens is no party chairman’s business.” There are other (few) opposition parties, such as Republican MPs, who openly support queer rights. The messages come amidst calls by the Orthodox Church Patriarchate on MEPs and diplomats to “refrain from supporting and encouraging” Pride, and on the government to prevent “the destabilization of the country and of public life.”


Rioni Valley activists say ENKA Renewables, the company building the controversial Namakhvani HPP, has halted preparatory works in the valley for a while. The HPP opponents have been demanding to suspend works as one of the preconditions to enter the international mediation led by EU-associated Energy Community. The government so far has not publicly stated about agreeing to halt the works, and some other demands such as releasing those detained in protests have not yet been met. Another demand for dismantling the iron barricades in the valley has been fulfilled, but activists claim police still remain in the area and the freedom of movement has not yet been restored. Protests continue.

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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