Dispatch | June 13-14: Fake Dilemmas

Would you choose EU over honor?! Or EU over going to war?! These are the kinds of fake moral dilemmas the ruling party-affiliated pundits and back-benchers have been pumping into the discourse, the party-affiliated media has been amplifying and the top-liners of the Georgian Dream have been endorsing with heavy hints. As the crunch-time of the European Commission recommendation on Georgia’s candidacy nears, signs from official Tbilisi are not encouraging. This is the Dispatch, from a country where fake dilemmas obscure real problems.

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CURTAIN CALL Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili aims for greatness. So he made his own “curtain speech”, albeit of a very different nature. If the EU “fails to respect” Georgia – that ‘honor’ dog-whistle again – he promised to “lift the curtain” on the perfidious nature of the European diplomacy. The Georgian Dream has thrown itself into frenetic offensive against Europe following the European Parliament resolution lambasting the lack of media freedoms, and calling for sanctions against its oligarchic patron, Bidzina Ivanishvili. But the wounded pride (and wallet? Ivanishvili’s lawyer claimed he is “subject to unannounced sanctions” since March 4) of the boss have simply given the free reign to the strong Europe-bashing under-current in the ruling party which was always there. It is much aligned with Russian state propaganda which portrays Europe as immoral and subordinate to the U.S. imperialist designs. Some former GD allies suggest, that the sentiment comes from the Man in the High Castle himself, and the courtiers are just picking on the signals, vying for favor.

WAR, WAR! We do not know who is copyrighting for the Georgian Dream’s PR team, but she or he is a big fan of Winston Churchill. Pulling the leaf from Churchill’s famous “You chose dishonour, and you will have war” riff against Neville Chamberlain, the Georgian Dream suggests Georgia is being pushed into both, dishonor AND war. The scheme is simple: the government and party leadership drop heavy hints about the enemies foreign and domestic trying to push the country into Russia-Ukraine war. These hints grow so thick, that the US Ambassador has to officially deny such intention (and, we know, nothing proves the propaganda point than officially denying it). Then the party-affiliated media – first yellow, then mainstream – amplify this narrative. Take a look at the “polling” shown in yesterday’s newscast by Imedi TV, the ruling party mouthpiece. The question, allegedly fielded by also government-friendly GORBI pollster reads: “If the West were to demand Georgia to enter the war against Russia, what should Georgia’s position be?” Sir Humphrey Appleby would be livid about such a crude job at leading questions

Screenshot from the ruling-party affiliated IMEDI TV. The question, asked by GORBI sociological research is “If the West were to demand Georgia to enter the war against Russia, what should Georgia’s position be?”

CLOAK AND DAGGER All this grandstanding about honor and truth (“I would repudiate my own family it it were based on lies, not only the EU”, the Georgian Dream backbencher, Aluda Gudushauri was quoted saying) makes one suspect some skeletons in the heavily guarded closet. TV Pirveli investigation claims to have uncovered one: the private messages that the journalists say belong to security operatives seem to show them actively planning and facilitating violence against journalists and queer activists on July 5, 2021. This is the very same event that cost Georgia that harshly worded EU Parliament Resolution. Transparency International, a watchdog, says the claims are serious enough to warrant both formal and parliamentary inquest. After all, the previous criticism leveled at the law enforcement was linked to inaction and passivity in the face of radical attackers, while now there seems to be an allegation of aiding and abetting these acts. But it would be short-sighted to count on remorse or on investigation: PM Garibashvili promised “no mercy” to the organizers of the pro-EU rally on June 20, in a statement pledging to defend eerily similar to the one he made before the July 5 debacle

DISAPPEARING PRESIDENT Having said she was cutting her European tour short on June 10, since the government was making her case for Georgia’s EU candidacy indefensible, President Salome Zurabishvili… has unexpectedly vanished from the public view. The only noise one heard was a Facebook statement that she will “no, and never” would pardon either imprisoned opposition TV chief Nika Gvaramia nor ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose fate was touched upon with concern by the EU Parliament resolution. No other statements followed after Zurabishvili’s return, but she apparently did come under significant pressure. PM Garibashvili has put her in league with the enemy, while Chairman Kobakhidze suggested that if it were not from Bidzina Ivanishvili’s insistence and support, Zurabishvili (who ran as an independent) would have never been elected. President Zurabishvili has scheduled a press briefing for today, June 14. Sharp tongues wonder whether her tactic would be to specifically NOT mention the topic that everyone expects.

This was all from us for today, as Georgia heads holds its breath ahead of the EC recommendation on candidacy (Politico reports the auguries are not good), the subsequent fallout, and the pro-Europe rally on June 20. Will the curtain be lifted, or will the iron curtain fall? Is this drama even real?! Civil.ge will report, as always, and the Dispatch will pick up the odd pieces on Tuesday.