The Dispatch

The Dispatch – September 2/3: Last Supper

Georgia Engulfed by Mindlessness- PM Plays Servant of None – Kaladze’s Furtive Last Supper – Gakharia Challenges Male Rivals Only, Rails Ms. Dolidze

Past days saw a sequence of events that has now become a hallmark of the country’s politics: mindless and shocking things happening in such rapid succession, it gets impossible to process any individual case. There seems to be nothing left but to wait until the tide of stupidity subsides. Here is Nini, trying to make sense of it all.

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SCHROEDINGER’S LOAN After the series of warnings from the EU that Georgia should meet the conditions for judicial reform or lose assistance package, the ruling Georgian Dream leaders started dropping hints of turning down the EU macro-financial assistance. These warnings turned into reality fast: the government refused the EUR 75 mln. long-term, low-interest loan. The EU responded by saying that GD failed to meet the conditionality of the court reform, making it clear that the tranche was not forthcoming anyway. So in a bizarre way, the ruling party refused something that was not on offer, as MEP Von Cramon aptly pointed out and one of the netizens no less aptly called “Schrödinger’s loan” after the famous quantum paradox of a cat in a box that is both alive or dead, before its actual state is observed.

The party came under predictable fire both locally and internationally, with President Salome Zurabishvili calling the loan refusal “incomprehensible” in a rebuke to the ruling party that once might have seemed impossible (after all, Zurabishvili rode to office on the GD patron Bidzina Ivanishvili’s coattails), but is rapidly becoming habitual.

SERVANT OF NONE GD’s handling of the backlash was no less shocking: Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili suddenly found himself in a hip-hop world of his own making, offering “you are not my boss” responses to anyone from a journalist asking a question to an MEP criticizing the move. Few, however, took seriously the tough-guy remarks coming from a man who is commonly perceived to be the most loyal servant to his longtime boss, Ivanishvili.

LATE BLOOMERS The past is in the past unless you have the United National Movement as the strongest opposition force in the country: hardly having processed the loss of millions in aid, UNM Chair Nika Melia disrupted the first cozy autumn evening for Georgians by heroically announcing the party decided to sign the April 19 agreement, which, as the name clearly says, had been agreed four months ago. The UNM’s change of heart after long resistance was apparently dictated by fears of the country’s decisive departure from the European trajectory. But it was this resistance that fabricated an excuse for GD to quit the deal late in July. The ruling party now slammed the move as a “political fraud,” and PM Garibashvili said there is “0% chance” the ruling party would schedule early general elections even if it gets lower than 43% of the votes in the October 2 local elections (as per April 19 agreement).

THE LAST SUPPER Should you be seeking a Shakespearean plot in all the drama that’s been playing out here, we are not letting you down: emotions run high after reports broke about a confidential meeting between Mayor Kakha Kaladze and former PM Giorgi Gakharia. The rendezvous reportedly took place just before Gakharia announced his decision to challenge Kaladze (his erstwhile party colleague) as Tbilisi Mayor. As soon as the news broke, the observers had to choose among the multiple versions of what happened: Gakharia first denied the report as a lie, while Georgian Dream leaders, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze and party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, suggested Gakharia sought some kind of “financial compensation” to drop the bid. Later, Gakharia’s teammates also confirmed there was a meeting, while Mayor Kaladze’s first-person account appeared most convincing so far:

“There were several calls and I allowed myself [to respond] in a humane way… we have been together for such a long time, right?” he said with a naïve and confused look on his face. “I could not understand what the reason or the goal of the meeting was, the only thing that has been said during the meeting was that he was running as a candidate and did not want me to learn this from the TV,” he added. Kaladze seemed at pains to prove the meeting was Gakharia’s idea, to begin with. Trying not to trigger the ire of famously jealous Mr. Ivanishvili?! After all, many expected Kaladze to follow Gakharia when he stepped down in February. Now we watch captivating frenemy drama, unrequited bromance, and toxic love triangle all in one – Mexican telenovela directors, ready your pens!

COUNT US IN Soon after announcing his candidacy, Gakharia invited Kaladze and Melia, his main competitors and front-runners, to debate. Somebody else, however, accepted the invitation: Anna Dolidze, the mayoral candidate from the “For People” party, does not want the October 2 elections to be merely a macho contest and reminded the former PM there are women running for the office too. A lawyer who did well as an independent in last year’s parliamentary elections, Dolidze called out Gakharia saying challenging only male competitors was “shameful”.

“And what am I as a woman supposed to do, keep you guys apart?” she asked, alluding to a local traditional understanding of a woman as a peacemaker in male fights. “I should probably cook for them,” she later concluded. Legitimate concerns: besides Dolidze, the Lelo for Georgia and Third Force parties also picked women – urbanist/architect Ana Bibilashvili and Free Democrats party chair Tamar Kekenadze – as their mayoral candidates. For once, Tbilisi Mayoral race is not a mono-gender affair. So, will Mr. Gakharia expand the gender scope of his challenge? Let’s wait and see.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Tuesday and Friday!


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