As the week progressed, the extent to which the Georgian politics is disconnected from reality became painfully apparent. The linguistic flip-flops and other acrobatics of the ruling party have little to do with politics, let alone policies. But they are not alone in this game. Eliciting and igniting emotional outrage to rally support has become the key rule of the Georgian political life and it is dragging down the faith in democracy as a way of managing common future. This is the Dispatch from Georgia, where the talk is cheap.
PLAYING FOR ADVANTAGE While civic activists have been ruminating on their setback and the opposition gloating at their perceived lack of success (for success in Georgian politics is always the elimination of the opponent), the ruling party has been jockeying for the information space advantage on EU-related topics. For that, it has been deploying a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde strategy. First, vilifying the opponents. As always, Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze takes the lead, saying “all those who stood at that stage [during the “Going Home – to Europe” opposition rallies] are people without motherland and without God”. Top-notch flamethrower performance there from Mr. Chairman, see how he pushes both the patriotic and the religious buttons (and makes one wonder why it was necessary to spin off “The Uninhibited Three”). Then comes the familiar adage – Chairman Kobakhidze again – if we were to have war here, we’d have the EU candidacy in our pocket instantly. But that’d be bad wouldn’t it?! Because – chimes in Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, literally minutes apart, in a coordinated messaging – it is better to be alive (and not the EU candidate), than dead. Charming. Now that the citizens have learned that the Georgian Dream is literally what stands between us and, quite simply, death (worse: godless death), would they not go along with whatever these noble guardians of the realm of men suggest?! You bet they would. Cometh Mr. Hyde – Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili – “whoever wants Europe, must join our proposals [for fulfilling the EU plan], whoever does not join, does not want Europe.” And the final olive branch (?) from the legal committee chair Anri Okhanashvili, who offers the opposition to create a commission for monitoring the rhetoric of the politicians – no, not a censorship, god forbid – just to lower the temperature a little. Reminder – this is the same Okhanashvili who was accused of strong-arming the opposition-minded TV boss during the 4th of July reception at the US embassy and who later said his opponent “got the response he deserved”. A sort of John Wayne-cum-Saint John.
TRICKS OF TRADE In an unexpected twist, the ruling party also tried to turn the tables on the EU itself. You give us candidacy, we’d get you the lower threshold for the parties to cross in 2024, suggested Chairman Kobakhidze. That brazen horse-trading proposal has already given birth to a mock Facebook challenge of “what would concede if the EU were to give Georgia candidacy?!”. Answers range from “finally agreeing to wed” to “quitting smoking”. The opposition parties now play outraged, but they did not exactly support civil society groups in pushing their own, accelerated proposal for fulfilling the EC recommendations.
SWISS-KNIFED Lawyers of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the ruling party’s shadowy patron, have rolled out a broadside against Credit Suisse, accusing the bank of effectively sanctioning the billionaire and doing so based on the European Parliament resolution. “It is obvious that the management of the bank is in a mode of self-harm and will not only harm the image of the bank, but also harm the reputation of the Swiss state,” thunder the lawyers, venturing somewhat questionably into the realm of inter-state relations. Agrees indefatigable Chairman Kobakhdize – this is “destroying the image” of the Swiss banking system, he says. Next, we logically expect statements that Switzerland is dragging Georgia into war. How refreshing.
CUT OFF And while all this drivel has been saturating the waves ad nauseam, significantly less attention has been paid to the fact that ten villages in Georgia’s mountainous Dusheti municipality area have been cut off from the mainland and without electricity since June 26 flash-floods destroyed the roads. And undoubtedly numerous other considerations the statesmen and women shall be taking care about, rather than chasing the warmongering Swiss bankers.
That’s all for today, but we will be back to try and make sense of Georgia, where news these days maintain an increasingly tenuous connection with facts.