The Dispatch – December 11
Elisashvili Goes Rogue – Macho Goes to Parliament – Ruling Party’s Rising Stars
DESERTERS AND COMRADES The first single-party parliamentary plenary was held today in modern Georgia, as foreign-facilitated negotiations between the Georgian Dream and opposition parties failed to end the post-election deadlock. The unity of the boycotting opposition parties, in the meantime, has been under stress. Aleko Elisashvili, Tbilisi-preservationist-turned-politician, leader of the Citizens (yes, the name and the idea was lifted from Ciudadanos of Spain) party, rose the veil of secrecy that surrounded the talks. Elisashvili, who was due to enter the parliament with a comrade of his, released his “negotiations unboxing video,” and pointed an accusatory finger at European Georgia’s Gigi Ugulava and Giga Bokeria. He said the two – who failed to break into the second round in their single-mandate districts – were sabotaging the talks since they had nothing to lose.
Elisashvili said his objectives in talking with the Georgian Dream were more pragmatic, and he was ready to take up the MP seat in return for a promise of “well-rounded” election reform. This was a marked departure from the opposition’s demand for “snap elections.” He has immediately come under formerly friendly fire for wishing to secure the separate peace with GD in exchange for lowering the election threshold, which would benefit his nascent group. The right-libertarian Girchi party, currently struggling with its own internal demons, shares Elisashvili’s reform concerns but seems reluctant to openly betray the opposition unity.
Importantly, lowering the election threshold would require constitutional changes – which, according to math we did – would require at least 23 opposition politicians to desert the boycott. This means that either the largest opposition group, the United National Movement had to radically change tack, or all the rest shall break the deadlock and side with GD. Both scenarios are highly unlikely. Five out of 8 opposition groups that passed the threshold in 31 October polls have already applied to the Central Election Commission to annul their proportional lists, and the rest pledge to follow suit after the talks with GD formally end. Thus, Elisashvili’s unilateral desertion only attracts unnecessary ridicule. Nobody has canceled the need for experience in politics.
GIRL POWER(LESSNESS) Talking of election reforms, the Georgian Dream refused to put more women on the proportional-party list than required by newly-adopted gender-quota laws. Instead, they followed the letter of the law and assigned female politicians the list numbers divisible by 4. Wrong move. Turns out, putting more women could have lured some leering boycotting opposition politicians in. So suggests the case of Irakli Okruashvili, former Defense Minister, known for posing with his Ray-Bans® and AK-47 (®?), who – by the turns of blind fortune – ran as the joint opposition majoritarian candidate in Tbilisi’s Saburtalo district. In his ill-considered Facebook post today, Okruashvili remarked seeing the MP lineup, that he could consider joining the parliament after all “for the “sake” of a couple of [GD] chicks and to take down a couple of hicks”. The “joke” did not land well. The chicken-hawk has later deleted the post.
While Okruashvili’s machismo literally jumps to the eye, David Bakradze of the European Georgia is often considered inoffensive to a fault. Often friend-zoned by voters, Bakradze exposed new-found confidence in his masculine charms a tad too much: as the journalists ran up to him following the 5-hour opposition talks with GD, he quipped „I am so happy to be surrounded by so many overexcited young ladies.” There was much cringing.
UNM’s Nika Melia’s joke of today asking President Zurabishvili out for a cup of coffee (to have for an “interesting conversation,” apparently) left a sour aftertaste, too. One wonders: did the boycott buddies synchronize their mid-life crises?!
A STAR IS (RE)BORN As tense as it gets outside, little discord is expected inside the parliament, where it seems the GD won’t be fighting anything but its own existential ennui for the coming years (Things, however, may still escalate – as we’ve seen more than one Dreamer vs. Dreamer cases hit the full Kramer vs. Kramer range in the previous Parliament.).
Still, the new parliament may not be that boring. The GD lineup shone with new colors today, as Eliso Bolkvadze, an internationally renowned piano player, entered the MP scene. One of those arts, sports and-entertainment people who rush to retire into politics once their star begins to fade, she instantly cut a memorable figure with few initial quotes hailed down on Facebook like trained fingers hitting out a particularly violent Shostakovich piece.
So in a few short statements, MP Bolkvadze defended the Georgian Dream’s policies by saying that things are far worse in Africa; by enlightening the captive audience, that Paris (where she lived) has social problems, too; and that people don’t seem as poor as the opposition claims to be, since they seem to be queueing at supermarket checkouts. In her defense, she preceded those statements by admitting to being incompetent when it comes to social problems. Oh, honesty – you just can’t beat it in politics.
That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!