Dispatch | June 6-7: Relentless Decay

Georgia’s social media has exploded with news that famous actor Jim Carrey has purchased an NFT (we don’t quite understand what it is, but know it is something that rich people and poor souls with quick-enrichment plans buy these days), depicting the nature invading an ex-Soviet Tskaltubo resort, in western Georgia. And while Mr. Carrey spoke of “the nature’s exquisite and relentless reinvention”, what Georgians see is the process of relentless decay. And that’s not only when it comes to Soviet-era white elephants. This is the Dispatch, with all that is curious and unnerving in Georgia’s politics.

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PRESIDENTIAL DOUBTS Whatever one can say about Georgia’s government, President Salome Zurabishvili comes out as distinctly European – at least when she goes through the familiar arc of surprise, concern, and astonishment to culminate into… little, if any, real action. But at least her process is distinguished enough from her toxic colleagues, – and so often is morally satisfying. This time, President Zurabishvili said it “made no sense” that anti-European pogroms were not orchestrated. And while she was referring to the recent violent mobbing of the two opposition MPs, many have wondered whether Madame President could have ventured more specific conclusions about the forces she suspects to be behind these incidents.

FLYING HIS COLORS If there was any doubt, Chairman Kobakhidze said one of them MPs that was attacked, David Berdzenishvili of the Republicans and his brother Levan Berdzenishvili were “enemies of the Georgian identity”, “full of hate” towards everything Georgian. He proceeded to add (no surprise here) former President Mikheil Saakashvili, Giga Bokeria of European Georgia, and arrested TV chief Nika Gvaramia to that list, as “Bolsheviks of our time”. What triggered this new bout of toxic petulance?! Levan Berdzenishvili, a prominent linguist, has, in a TV interview, refer to the Georgian King Erekle II (1720-1798) decision to bring Georgia under the fold of the Russian Empire as “treason”. GD seized the opportunity to unleash the campaign in support of the late monarch and against the “liberal traitors”. The troll army was unleashed on social media. An appeal circulated to ban Berdzenishvili from teaching the students and a supporting manifestation was held in late monarch’s hometown. Truly, in Georgia these days, nothing is more political than history… It helps that it is also intangible, open to interpretation and impossible to change. (Perhaps this is also what NFT is all about?!)

…SEE YOU IN COURT As a sign of widening gap between President Zurabishvili and the ruling party, the government will be dragging the President to the Constitutional Court over her refusal sign off on several ambassadorial appointments. The government claims the President has exceeded her competencies, since she does not get to shape foreign policy. Some lawyers argue, that while the country is still transitioning towards the parliamentary model (it will be fully implemented after 2024 general elections), the governing system remains semi-Presidential, hence she might be in the clear. Whatever the legalistic dispute, few doubt that the government’s action is first and foremost political retaliation – and President Zurabishvili seems to think so, as well – if you read our summary of her extended media interview.

HAVING IT BOTH WAYS? The divergence between the President and the ruling party leadership is mostly about the right way towards the European Union – a topic that has been kept on top of the political agenda, since the European Commission is readying its response to Georgia’s application to become a candidate. In the meantime an interesting debate rages on social media: some pundits and political observers argue, that the Georgian Dream and, especially, its shadowy patron, Bidzina Ivanishvili, want to prevent Georgia from getting closer to the EU. Hence, they say, acts clearly sabotaging the rapprochement, such as the arrest of the opposition-minded TV chief. In this narrative, Ivanishvili is compared to Viktor Yanukovich, whose anti-EU about-face led to the second Maidan in Ukraine and whose hasty flight from the country gave President Putin the pretext to invade both Crimea and Donbas in 2014. Others argue, that Ivanishvili wants to get into the EU – not least to protect his assets from Putin and his cronies. Yet, they say, he wants to do so on his own terms, with a thoroughly “Orbanized” political discourse and oligarchic rule. At least two European politicians are quite blunt on this point:

It may come to a point where the people of Georgia will have to decide what they choose the current political structure with B. Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream in the lead of the
country, or the European future of Georgia.

wrote MEPs from Lithuania, Andrius KUBILIUS and Rasa JUKNEVIČIENĖ, EPP Vice-Chair in an open letter.

FLEETING MOMENTUM Georgian opposition has been touring Brussels to canvass support to Georgia’s EU candidacy – as was, of course, the leadership. At least some good news started to trickle in – the ALDE liberal grouping has backed Georgia’s application, and the draft joint statement of the Presidents of the European Parliament’s political families seems to point in the same direction. Yet, the European Parliament has no direct say on the matter – the European Commission recommendation will be reviewed and taken up (or not) by the Council of the EU later this month.

That will be all today, we apologize for the delayed Dispatch, that was due to technical glitch. We’d try to be on time, in your mailboxes on Friday morning!