The Dispatch – February 3
US Ambassador Plays it safe… — while the EU one is in for trouble — Prime Minister Keeps it Cool — COVID-19 Hits Occupied Territories Hard – Jennifer Aniston Stirs Up Georgian politics
SAFE NOT SORRY We all heard the Biblical dictum “Blessed are the peacemakers”. Well, there is a Georgian proverb – “peacemakers receive most blows in a scuffle” – that tends to be more realistic. The foreign facilitators of the political talks have learned that the hard way over the past few months. Perhaps having learned that lesson, the U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan did not go the extra mile to defend Nika Gvaramia, the opposition’s TV mogul, when asked to comment on yesterday’s controversial disclosure of his private phone number by MP Tea Tsulukiani on the parliament floor. Degnan, who has repeatedly been on the receiving end of Gvaramia’s vitriol chose not to overstep the margin of appreciation and leave it on domestic actors to judge the controversial act.
THUG LIFE EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell was altogether less prudent. He judged MP Tsulukiani’s move as an “unethical act” today, added it was an “unpleasant surprise”, and noted that privacy rights are one of the most important issues. MP Tsulukiani – who just recently cut the pharaonic figure in charge of the Justice Ministry – responded in a tone of chilling menace, well familiar to her co-workers. “I would have very much liked to receive Ambassador Hartzell in the Parliament so that we could discuss his recent statement relating to me (a member of the Georgian Parliament),” she quipped in a Facebook post. But perhaps there is no need to line Mrs. Tsulukiani’s cabinet floor with cellophane in anticipation of a bloodbath. The rumors are that she’d be moving to the greener pastures at the Ministry of Culture.
GUARDIAN OF NATION’S CALM PM Giorgi Gakharia is either impervious to hysterics or is the only one in Georgia’s politics who still cares about his image abroad. True, his desperate calls “upon everyone… to avoid risky politicization of the “Gareji Issue” (referring to the recent escalation in “Cartographers’ Case”) ring hollow. After all, it was the ruling party and its subordinated prosecution that launched the witchhunt – and precisely for the partisan aims. But still, Mr. Gakharia is the one who might need to pick a nasty phone-call from President Ilham “victorious-in-war-shall-be-made-glorious-in-peace” Aliev. We feel his pain. Perhaps to soothe it, PM met the Indian Ambassador to strengthen ties, laying grounds for the future free trade agreement and for opening an Indian embassy in the country. A classy comeback after Abkhazia’s rulers were caught flirting with Pakistani representatives.
COVID DEMOGRAPHICS Tskhinvali and Sokhumi released demographics data from 2020 – the year when the whole world was strongly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the occupied regions were no exceptions. Out of 424 people who passed away in 2020, Tskhinvali says 68 succumbed to the novel coronavirus, illustrating the toll the pandemic took on the region’s small population. While details on the causes of deaths are not public, Abkhazia also saw an increase in fatalities – recording 1,726 deaths in 2020 compared to 1,591 in 2019. The number of births also increased over the year, albeit by a smaller portion, reaching 1,463 in 2020 compared to 1404 newborns in 2019.
STORY OF ONE STORY Little did the iconic “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston know that one of her usual Instagram stories would kick up a high-level controversy in the faraway country of Georgia. On January 30, the actress posted it in support of top female leaders across the globe. Unsurprisingly, Salome Zurabishvili’s current presidential rank secured her a spot on the list. The President was set joyfully a-Twitter while the government media broke into Hosanna.
But the haters will, inevitably, hate. Especially in show-business. Anita Rachvelishvili, a renowned Georgian mezzo-soprano critical to the government, apparently sent a vicious text to Ms. Aniston, reminding her that Zurabishvili’s place is in prison. (Obviously, the part we are to retain here is that Ms. Rachvelishvili has Rachel on a speed-dial). Zurabishvili’s office picked up the gauntlet and posted an official statement, slamming the opera singer for openly attacking Georgia’s “first female President.” Will the next “Friends” reunion feature the Presidential guest appearance?! Hollywood, hold your breath!
That’s all for today, we’d get back with the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics on Friday!