Why “Beacon of Democracy” Saakashvili moves Parliament from the capital. And martyrs of president’s voluntaristic but childish fantasies


Historical information:

Kutaisi (old names – Aia, Kutaia, Kutatisi) – oldest Georgian city (est. ca VIII c. BC), mentioned in the myth about Argonauts and Medea, then capital of Kolkhis kingdom. Was capital of Western Georgia and then of Georgia during 7th-11th centuries AC, when Tbilisi was occupied by Arabs and Turks. Also was a place of one of the earliest educational centers in Eurasia – Gelati Academy (est. 1106).  2nd largest city in modern times Georgia. Population 188,000 (according last census in 2002, while it was 232,000 in 1989). Largest industrial city in Soviet times, place of Kutaisi Truck Factory (KAZ, est. 1945, around 15,000 employees during 1960s), Kutaisi Tractor Factory, Kutaisi Lithopone factory (chemicals/dyes), plastics factory, glass factory, textile fabric, silk fabric, etc. Only few of these operating at 5-10% of maximum capacity today, most are completely closed. Nearby villages had extensive green grosses production, which came nearly to halt after 2006 trade collapse with Russia. Estimated negative migration from Kutaisi for last decade – 30,000 (mainly women migrating to EU as nannies and caregivers, and men to Russia and Ukraine mainly as builders and resellers). 

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Idea of moving Parliament to Kutaisi – MP Bobokhidze and his way

On sunny day of July 17, 2009, Georgian majoritarian MP from Kutaisi – Mr. Akaki (Kako) Bobokhidze has applied to Georgian Parliament with then unheard proposal to move Parliament to Kutaisi, 2nd largest city, some 220 km away from Tbilisi.

Kako Bobokhidze has never been among intellectual leaders of Saakashvili’s United National Movement.  His main capacities have been in his «talents» of loud-crying, bullying and even fist fighting.  Here we provide some of the most prominent stages from his carrier:

1)      On December 1, 2005 the governor of the western region of Imereti, Akaki Bobokhidze, had a physical confrontation with reporter Irakli Imnaishvili after the two exchanged words on a televised debate program for local channel Rioni. Bobokhidze badly beat Imnaishvili and broke his nose. Bobokhidze resigned the next day. In February Bobokhidze was appointed chairman of the National Guard; in October the president reappointed him governor of Imereti. In 2005 the prosecutor general’s office initiated criminal charges against Bobokhidze; but during the year, these charges were reduced to misdemeanor assault. Imnaishvili did not appeal the reclassification of charges against Bobokhidze. At year’s end the case against Bobokhidze was still pending. (US Dept of State Report on Human Rights, 2006 – http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78813.htm)

2)      On the tragic anniversary of the fall of Sokhumi on September 27, 2011, the Parliamentary Session developed into a verbal and physical confrontation among MPs. After paying tribute to the fallen soldiers with a minute of silence Petre Mamradze MP from the newly established faction Unity for Justice accused the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of a “military-political adventure” that gave Russia an opportunity to announce the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “The prospect of uniting Georgia is lost under the current Georgian regime,” Mamradze said calling the August war a “Georgian provocation”. Mamradze’s speech had outraged ruling United National Movement (UNM) MP Akaki Bobokhidze so much that he swore at his opponent and slapped him in the face.
Bobokhidze said he would immediately demand his resignation if any MP would continue accusing the Georgian government of inspiring any war. Despite of the fact that EU Tagliavini commission on 2008 Russian-Georgian war came to exactly that conclusion (http://irdb.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/tagliavini-commission-report-on-war-in-georgia/)  . After apologizing to his colleagues Bobokhidze warned Mamradze never to repeat such words again. Parliament never came to decision to investigate this outrageous event, thus de-facto confirming Bobokhidze’s “right” to use his fist fighting skills against political opponents, despite of the fact, that according to Georgian legislation he should have faced expel of MPs and even 5-9 years imprisonment charges.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAHUIGd82zg 

3)      So far last activity engaging Macho MP, happened on 24.04.2012. When oppositionary MP Jondi Bagaturia asked the Parliament, what was wisdom in recognizing Russian genocide against Cherkess people some 150 years ago, if we won’t recognize so far Turkish genocide against Armenians? That provoked Azeri-national MP Suleimanov to throw Vaseline tube (why he should have that in pocket?!) to Jondi Bagaturia. And immediately Kako Bobokhidze, approached the scene, swearing and trying to hit Mr. Bagaturia in his a-la Bruce Lee style. It is interesting that few days ago, Mr. Bagaturia made unprecedented claim against President Saakashvili after the latter’s annual report, that President, his mother, his brothers and all his ministers are very corrupted and shown some photos prove of his accusations, which induced fierce reaction from Saakashvili. Raged president  run out from the stage and after returning in 5 minutes promised Bagaturia that Parliament marshals would take him and provide “dirt bathes” and hard massage! So it seems that actions against Bagaturia have been well prepared and staged as yet incomplete, but small revenge for what he dared to say about the “Beacon of Democracy”.

another attempt of fist fighting of Machp MP (watch video)

So, why would Saakashvili and his UNM use such a “low-grade” politician to unveil their dreams? The reason is simple; Bobokhidze is Kutaisi’s voice in Misha’s Parliament (80% of seats belonging to UNM, 16% to so called opposition, which is pocket opposition, orchestrated by UNM). So, it was “natural” that MP was paving “political significance, rebuilding, better future, growth and investment” to his city.

But let’s ask another question, why it happened on that particular day, what was a reason, why Bobokhidze was used as UNM trumpet-horn  that very day?

Information block – Why Saakashvili has decided to get Parliament out of Tbilisi

On April 9, 2009, Georgian united opposition has started the longest protest rally against Saakashvili, demanding his resignation. EU Tagliavini commission report was main argument for such demand. Report said that despite of multiple provocations and violations from Ossetian, and especially Russian sides, it was Georgian leadership whose decision regarding escalating minor conflicts to full scale war and attack Tskhinvali using artillery and tanks has been a decisive moment in turning this long-lasting conflict again in stage of real war.

Since April 25 until mid July for over 100 days Tbilisi became a “cell city”. Whole Rustaveli Avenue and Liberty square became blocked by thousands of opposition supporters which had their city of several hundreds of metal-constructed cells there.

Cell city in Tbilisi (at Rustaveli avenue and near Presidential Palace)

Parliament was not blocked, but as Saakashvili has afraid that people would attack it, sessions were practically seized. Parliament carried few sessions, more less a show of only Parliament bureau in different cities, including Batumi and Kutaisi. As similar cell city emerged around Presidential Palace, Saakashvili had to leave Tbilisi and was almost in exile for over 3 months. It was even more difficult for him, as western leaders also tried to avoid meetings with him and his was wondering mainly in Batumi and some other cities.

On July 22-23 US Vice-President Joe Biden had visit to Tbilisi. As some opposition leaders have lost hope in public action being able to remove Saakashvili, and after numerous small scale provocations against protesters, in which some state-controlled journalists have played role of provocateurs along with security officers, protesters were frustrated and on morning of July 22 police has cleared up both Rustaveli avenue and areas nearby Parliament (Presidential palace was freed some weeks before).

So, President Saakashvili, which himself came to power after bloodless storm of Parliament building by around 15,000 of his supporters, had survived several much larger rallies against his authoritarian regime since then:

–          November 2, 2007 rally – around 50,000 protesters on Rustaveli

–          November 7, 2007 rally – around 20,000 protesters on Rustaveli, which have been violently dispersed by tear gas, plastic bullets, acoustic waves and water cannons, use of excessive force by police and informal zonder-brigades. Much larger crowd of app. 40,000 people gathered later at Rike square, which have been dispersed by excessive forces. The same time police and Special Forces attacked and silenced independent Imedi TV channel, journalists have been humiliated and intimidated.

–          January 25, 2008 – mass rally of 200,000 people on Tbilisi Hippodrome, some of them have marched to Rustaveli avenue, where President Saakashvili had inauguration, which was shortened to avoid confrontation with such a large crowd (only 5,000 people were gathered that day to celebrate inauguration).

–          May 26, 2008 – after military parade, Rustaveli avenue was occupied by over 50,000 protesters. United opposition condemned rigged Parliamentary elections and said they wouldn’t take 16-seats which gave them role of marionettes in puppet thither of Saakashvili

–          Mass protests over 100 days – “cell city”. Over 100,000 people have gathered on April 9, 2009, and over 80,000 – on May 26, 2009. All those periods at least 1000-2000 people stayed on cell city around Parliament and Presidential palace. Several times over 10,000 protesters were bluntly and violently dispersed (May 6 violent confrontation, June 15 violent dispersal of peaceful demonstration, when journalists were bluntly beaten by police) during those April – July protests.

–          May 2011, peaceful protests 2-10,000 participants, have been violently dispersed on night of Independence Day, May 26, in 15 min, since the rally’s license ended.   

Use of excessive force, leading to injury of many protesters, illegal detention, violation of journalists rights, intimidation and force against journalists, limitation of access to legal defense, use of force and torture in places of detention, cases of death, probably attributed to use of excessive force, as well as several unconfirmed reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings – these all regard violent disperse of peaceful, though illegal after certain time demonstration on Rustaveli avenue on May 26, 2011. The case has got high attention of US Department of State, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and other human rights organization. Police officers which participated in those actions have only got administrative punishment, their names never have been announced, which leaves reasonable doubt that action was only taken on paper. Almost dozen journalists which received physical and verbal assault by police have been given very modest reimbursement for their physical damage – in range of 2-10 USD! In one high profile case, friends of two men found electrocuted on the rooftop of a building near the location of the May 26 protests alleged their deaths were the result of police action. However, two forensic laboratories found the deaths to be consistent with accidental electrocution. On June 2, a third protest participant died of cardiac arrest, which his family maintained was related to being hit with a tear gas canister fired by police during the protest. (According to US Dept of State Report on Human Rights, 2011)

–          May 28, 2011, peaceful protest against May 26 brutal crackdown on demonstration – around 30,000 participants.

–          May 27, 2012 – Opposition Georgian Dream mass rally in Tbilisi, over 120,000 participants

–          June 10, 2012 – Georgian Dream mass rally in Kutaisi, over 50,000 participants

–          June 17, 2012 – Georgian Dream mass rally in Ozurgeti, over 30,000 participants

Coming back to July 2009, Saakashvili has decided, that Tbilisi, where he’s got most painful defeat in 2008 Presidential elections (despite of many falsifications, Saakashvili lost in all districts of Tbilisi!) and where so often more than 10% of inhabitants are ready to come and protest in front of parliament, creating the same environment which lead to Shevardnadze regime’s crash, – to move Parliament to Kutaisi. At the very same time, seeing Western leaders attitude to Putin’s maneuvering, he decided to force constitutional changes, which would guarantee maximum power not to the President, which needs to be elected by people, but to Prime Minister, which would be named by Parliament. So, already in 2009 Saakashvili started to distance government – with powerful PM, from even more weakened Parliament, which would be sitting somewhere out there, in city with only 100,000 population where opposition would never collect more than 5,000-10,000 protesters utmost, which would be too little force to storm the Parliament. He carefully has chosen even location for the Parliament, which has around 500 meter from nearby streets and houses (while building in Tbilisi is just 20 meters from the main avenue). I suppose even water channel aside of Parliament has probably the same “defending” role as water channels around medieval towers.

Having over 200 km between government and Parliament location would be another justifying factor why ministers wouldn’t come often to Parliament.  Police and Intelligence Minister Merabishvili attended Parliamentary hearings only once, while Justice Minister Adeishvili has not done even that symbolic gesture, I can imagine that in future even Deputy Ministers wouldn’t bother to go to Kutaisi to answer MP queries.

After MP Bobokhidze had seeded the idea, there was only 1 month devoted to so-called public discussion on this issue. Only 2 meetings of special Parliamentary commission were held. Although it was announced that commission would discuss all questions and proposals submitted by public, Legal committee head at Parliament MP Pavle Kublashvili said – no proposal (!) was at all submitted! After that stage called “discussion” constitutional amendment was accepted the same year (in Georgian Parliament constitutional amendments are as usual and as frequent, as rains in Scotland), which endorsed decision, plenary sessions to be held in Kutaisi since 2012, but committee hearings still to be held in Tbilisi. That time Saakashvili said that it wouldn’t be right step to move Parliament completely out of Tbilisi. However, as it happens often in Georgia, not seeing fierce resistance to his fantasies, Saakashvili soon “changed” position and eventually went to his final dream – completely moving Parliament to Kutaisi.

 

Moving Parliament to Kutaisi – Pros and Cons

After the whole political system has been changed up-and-down by Constitutional changes in 2010, the move of Parliament to Kutaisi was not the major change, however, as initial bi-seated version has been upgraded to only Kutaisi-based Parliament, the critics of this decision increased from both opposition and constitutional/economical experts.

Government arguments:

1)      move will mark full blown decentralization

2)      move will create shift of not only political power to Western Georgia, but also fosters infrastructure development – roads, airports, hotels, services…

3)      move will create additional workplaces in Kutaisi

4)      move will increase price on real estate in Kutaisi, due to increased demand (and make Kutaisi and Tbilisi real estate prices not terribly different)  

5)      move will not add extra expenses to then accepted budget as the Parliament building will only cost 57 mln GEL ($35 mln)

6)      Old Parliament building will be sold which would bring much more money to the budget than construction of the new one

7)      move would further promote legal education, rule of law and principles of democracy to regions of Georgia.

Opposition/Experts counterarguments:

1)      Move will be just deconcentration of power, and not a real decentralization. Deconcentration has been a failure in those African and Asian countries, which tried to do it.

2)      Infrastructure development will not be too much influenced by move of Parliament.

3)      The number of new workplaces in Kutaisi wouldn’t exceed 1,000. This is not significant for the city of 130,000 inhabitants and rampant unemployment. It is the revival of industry and of agriculture for nearby villages, which could save and revitalize Kutaisi, and not move of just Parliament. Besides, the same number of jobs will be lost in Tbilisi.

4)      Kutaisi real estate market has several tens of thousands flats on sale due to growing emigration and mortgage-related loans. Newly appeared demand on 500-1000 flats will not really ease the situation.

5)      Recent investigation by Georgian Young Lawyers Association has shown that currently already 134 mln GEL ($80 mln) has been spent on yet unfinished Parliament building. The digits have been confirmed by Minister of Finance but he couldn’t explain from where the additional sources have appeared, neither – how much more money needs to be spent as nearly 90% of inside refurbishment still to be done. This reminds similar story of presidential palace, built in 2007-2009, exact price tag of which is not known along with sources of its support (estimated price – 800 mln. USD). These proves Georgian government operate millions of illegal dollars for governmental buildings’ construction.

6)      No price tag for old Parliament building has been revealed. Selling one of the landmarks of Tbilisi (besides, building is official logo for Georgian Parliament) would not help already shaky reputation of  Georgian government, which sells everything (railroads, water, gas and electricity distribution networks, harbors, forests,
rivers, water resources)

7)      With undemocratic and non-transparent decision-making and justice below of any acceptable standards, Parliament building’s move will not promote anything more than new style of architecture.  

8)      Parliament would often have problem of failed quorum. As it was happening in Tbilisi, it would be much more frequent in Kutaisi, as most of MPs still would live in Tbilisi and may have problems to get in time to sessions.

9)      Parliament is not only MPs but also experts and consultants, staff for commissions. These people, whose professionalism has grown gradually, is not given proposal, unlike MPs, to have their accommodation cost met by government. So, if they would decide to go to Kutaisi, they have to arrange their living place themselves, which would result many of them quitting their job and will leave Parliament without professional cadre, at least for certain time.

10)  Move will further distance legislative power from the executive one. With Constitutional court sitting in Batumi and now Parliament – in Kutaisi, contacts between them will be complicated. Meeting with Parliament members is important for journalists, diplomats, citizens, etc. Move will make those contacts harder and will eventually lead to weakened and isolated Parliament. Besides, if government would need ministerial members also moved or travel to Kutaisi that will result in significant extra cost which nobody dares to calculate and present to financial committee…

Sources:  Civil.Ge | Relocation of Next Parliament to Kutaisi Endorsed

www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=23650Saakashvili wants to Kutaisi, the second capital of Georgia  – http://news.vdok.org/page.aspx?id=5342

But Saakashvili and his experts were cemented into their position. As usually the main argument was: “Misha knows the best!” or – “Whatever Misha said – can’t be argued…” In September 2009 Georgian Parliament finally approved move of itself to Kutaisi. Saakashvili announced he already had a nice place – where currently memorial of WWII was standing and demanded demolition of “that useless remnant of soviet regimen”.

The initiative was unpopular from the start. Even those who supported the idea of moving the parliament to Kutaisi saw the destruction of the monument as unnecessary and an affront to the 300,000 Georgians who died in World War II.

Opposition leader Salome Zurabishvili, who formerly served as foreign minister under Saakashvili, said the demolition showed blatant disregard for Georgia’s wartime sacrifices.

“This is a memorial to those people who fought for freedom against Nazism. Georgians and non-Georgians, Europeans and Jews who were killed in World War II,” Zurabishvili said.

However, Saakashvili was, as usually rigid in his wishes. He sees that as prove for the song slogan – “Misha is Cool!” (which in Georgian sounds the same way as “Misha is Hard!”)

 

  WWII Memorial in Kutaisi

 

Bloody start of new Parliament construction

After recent humiliation of 100 day isolation in summer, Saakashvili has decided to have nice birthday. Not many people know in west, that Saakashvili is born exactly the very same day as another famous Georgian Joseph Stalin – 21st of December.

The company which was given task to blast 46 meter-high grandiose concrete monument has said they would accomplish demolition for end of December, but rumors were spread, Saakashvili demanded it should have been before his birthday so that he could enjoy showing a crashed symbol of old – Soviet era and unveil a layout of new Parliament building.

But the result of rushing with demolition was dreadful, due to insufficient safety measures and as workers had to put more explosive in the yet non-deconstructed monument, the 42 year old Eka Jincharadze and her 8 year old girl were killed by flying concrete mass, as they watched demolition in about 500 meters from the site in their blockhouse yard.

http://www.rferl.org/content/Georgian_President_Blasted_Over_Monuments_Demolition/1910056.html

Saakashvili’s government tried to put all the guilt on the blasting company managers, which have been jailed on 4 year term, although it was President’s date-mania and his circle’s wish to please the Chief,  what forced engineers to overrule safety measures.

Saakashvili was frightened and one day it was unclear if he would dare to come from Copenhagen summit to the city where most of angered population considered him personally guilty for innocent victims’ death. However, he then assured himself that not appearing would mean he did accepted responsibility, which he never does. After spending few hours in the terrorized city (police prohibited any protest demonstrations and state-controlled journalists have only recorded few UNM activist ladies, which have been demanding “Opposition out of Kutaisi! Let us burry our dead without political show!”) Saakashvili went to Batumi on his birthday and celebrated by attending a special concert. That is another his habit – when something tragic happens, he needs to leave the site shortly and enjoy some entertainment, – concert, party, massage or shopping, – to feel immediate relief from bad memories… He does the very same often, including recent episode of disastrous fatal flood in Tbilisi, when he left to youth soccer championship in Slovenia and then to shop-tour for luxury watches in Milan.

 

Parliament Construction stages

For nearly a year and half Parliament construction was not going too quick. Starting since 2010 state had problems with financing constructions. The newly finished Presidential palace took too much means.

Everything has changed dramatically on October 4, 2011, when Saakashvili has opened so called Justice Hall in Kutaisi. These halls became one of the matters of pride for Saakashvili, according to whom, here one can get a passport in few minutes, while having cup of coffee. Saakashvili recently has shown such Justice Hall to Hillary Clinton in Batumi and handed over a Georgian Pass to her, joking that she can now run for office in Georgia! A very bitter and cynical joke, considering that Saakashvili’s main opponent in coming elections, Georgian-born tycoon Ivanishvili has been stripped off his citizenship and getting a Georgian passport for him is certainly much harder and longer than getting a coffee, if at all possible during Saakashvili regime.

While opening a Kutaisi Justice Hall, Saakashvili said very assuringly that first Session of newly elected Parliament will be held in Kutaisi on May, 26, 2012!

The statement made President’s press-speakers and UNM leaders very confused as according to newly approved constitutional changes the Parliamentary elections had to be carried out in Fall, 2012! In accordance to the recent amendments to the Constitution, the venue of the Parliament is Kutaisi but the new norm will be in force after the next convocation of the parliament is elected. The Constitution also states that parliament’s venue, place of session or meeting can be changed in case of emergency or military situations.

So, it was nearly announcement that Saakashvili has decided to carry our snap Parliamentary elections! But on what ground?  Saakashvili’s majority tried to ease the confusion by saying that President apparently had in mind only a symbolic session dedicated to Independence day and not a real working session, but that nice explanation lasted short time…

“Ground” for such unexpected announcement of President became nearly obvious in less than 24 hours, when tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, with Forbes estimated $6.4 bln
worth fortune, has announced his plans to go to politics and run in Parliamentary elections against Saakashvili. Long-term supporter, which invested over 1 bln USD in different charity projects and besides (as it became clear later) paid lion’s share in Saakashvili’s reforms of police, military and education, became the strongest and most fierce critics of Saakashvili, who lost all credits of trust and became major barrier to Democracy, Ivanishvili said.

I wouldn’t enter in details of Saakashvili-Ivanishvili confrontation, which is well known enough. Just to mention, that Ivanishvili saw stripped off his Georgian citizenship on formal grounds  in less than a week, and since then all state machine of Georgia has no higher task than to deprive him political rights, financial wealth and discredit by all means of state-controlled powerful propaganda-turned-media.

Apparently Saakashvili has heard about Ivanishvili’s strike a day before the latter announced it (later Ivanishvili has dismissed leader of his Kartu Bank, saying that he was hired by state intelligence nearly year ago, but he kept a “spy”, around willing to mislead Saakashvili and Merabishvili regarding his plans). And for some time his shock was so great he was seriously considering carrying out snap elections before Ivanishvili would have his future party, established, concentrated and campaign launched.

On November 7th, 2011, Saakashvili stubbornly repeated his demand – to carry out first session of Parliament in Kutaisi on Independence Day, 26th of May 2012. He was more cautious and didn’t say unlike previous statement – “first session of the newly elected Parliament”, but said, it wouldn’t be just one session, but all sessions, and Parliament must be moved to Kutaisi completely and finally!

http://www.humanrights.ge/index.php?a=main&pid=14080&lang=eng

First Parliament Session in Kutaisi – Next Childish Entertainment for Saakashvili or Snap Parliamentary Elections?

On November 8, MP Dimitry Lortkipanidze said at the plenary session that the President’s statement about the “first session” in Kutaisi based parliament building on May 26, 2012 breaches the Constitution of Georgia.  “The majority could not figure out the so-called message-box which they should send after the recent statement of the President.” Lortkipanidze expects the President of Georgia to make a statement about the snap parliamentary elections during his yearly report to the parliament in January of 2012. Lortkipanidze added that the president is a good lawyer and of course he was fully aware that his statement about the first scheduled parliamentary session on May 26, 2012 contradicted the Constitution.

In reply to the abovementioned assumption of the oppositionist MP, the parliamentary majority made comments and excluded the possibility of snap elections again.

Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Mikheil Machavariani clarified the President’s statement and noted that “On May 26, 2012 the first session of the Parliament will be held in the new building of the parliament in Kutaisi and it will not be the first session of the new convocation parliament.”

The vice-speaker suggested the opposition parties to be calm. “No snap elections are planned. Be calm. This parliament will finish its activities within constitutional terms.”

Leader of the Republic Party Davit Usupashvili said Mikheil Saakashvili is trying to prepare pre-conditions for the snap elections with similar statements in case if they need it. “I do not think they have decided to hold parliamentary elections in spring but I really have impression that they are discussing the issue as a possible tactic maneuver. If they conclude that the more time passes the worse their situation will be, they should hold elections earlier,” said Usupashvili. Usupashvili added that similar decision is signal for the opposition parties to be ready for every political maneuver. “Saakashvili is famous with his childish entertainments; he loves symbols, coincidence of celebration dates; he does not care how much time is necessary for the construction of a building or for technological process. I wish the new building of the parliament did not collapse on May 26 because builders and experts told me it is unreal terms for construction; the same happened with the Tbilisi International Airport, Batumi Theater and other buildings,” said the leader of the Republic Party.

From November, 2011 construction became energized. Saakashvili, trapped in growing criticism for his mismanagement of Ivanishvili case, especially after his visit to Washington, DC, when President Obama has emphasized and importance of transparent and democratic elections and formal transfer of power, had mission impossible – to impress Georgian people by “greatness” of his achievements! With so many promise (nearly 95%) vanished and went in vain. So every new tunnel dug, every new Justice Hall opened, and plans of mythical city Lazika to be built on swamp close to de-facto border with Abkhazia, Saakashvili creates an image of National hero which leads the nation to revival through lots of problem… What makes this heroic picture blurred, that is immense growth of Saakashvili and his inner circle’s wealth the same time,  when people’s living standards flow lower and lower, and very grim condition of transparency, justice and media independence.

The work has been carried first in 2 shifts, but that was not enough. Due to rather strong and snowy winter (there was snow in Kutaisi until mid-March, which is rather unusual), which made concrete drying very complicated and works have been delayed. As in April weather improved – workers already worked non-stop 7X24, in 3 shifts.

Parliament construction – March 8, 2012

Parliament on April 10, 2012

There are some photos showing very slow progress of construction, which made it impossible to be finished for Saakashvili desirable day – 26th May. Some people even at UNM hierarchy have wondered why it became so terribly important for Saakashvili to finish Parliament and carry inauguration of Parliament on 26th May, but it is not difficult to understand if one goes in recent history of May 26th celebrations in Georgia.

  • May 26th, 2008 – Military Parade in Tbilisi was followed by massive rally of united opposition protesters which said Saakashvili had stolen victory in rigged Parliamentary election of May 21st, after which ruling party smashed 119 seats in 150 seated Parliament. Around 50,000 people participated in demonstration, where opposition had rejected to receive even those 16 mandates they won, which brought UNM’s dominance even more overwhelming. Though defense budget hit record 1 bln., GEL previous year, however, Georgia suffered very bitter loss in 5-day war with Russia in August, which brought Saakashvili’s international and domestic credits to lowest level.
  • May 26, 2009 – Opposition, carrying out 100-day protests in Tbilisi, had huge demonstration on National stadium gathered 80,000 protesters there which then marched whole city to Trinity Cathedral. Saakashvili, which was refugee in Tbilisi those days, introduced himself as teacher of Geography in one of the school, although it was Sunday and pupils have been summoned by administration to stage a show for defeated and audience-sick President. So called Mukhrovani Coup in Army unit shortly before (May 9) was another blow for Saakashvili regime, which had changed Minister of defense, choosing a new strongman, – Bacho Akhalaia, which previously got in US Dept of State human rights report for association with abuse of power and torture while being Minister of detention and probation. 
  • May 26, 2010, – Saakashvili finally got “his” military parade in Tbilisi
  • May 26, 2011 – on night before parade Opposition rally in front of the Parliament was dispersed by using excessive force and unprecedented brutality. 4 people died, over 500 injured, including many journalists and dozens remained imprisoned and even “vanished” for several weeks and months having been held in detention areas far from their homes and without notice of relatives. On next morning a blood was washed from Rustaveli avenue and Saakashvili awarded several statesmen ordains of Presidential shine, which has been named by people Ordain of bloody shine
  • May 26, 2012 – Saakashvili decided to carry out military parade in Kutaisi. Suffering the bitterest loss in Presidential elections in Tbilisi, and so many mass rallies against his rule, he became more and more fond of idea to move Parliament and then may be the part of government to Kutaisi. But he didn’t like idea to hold only parade, that’s why inauguration of newly finished Parliament would have been symbol of his re-born in another capital as he calls Kutaisi.

MPs to Hold Session in   Partially Constructed Parliament Building in Kutaisi on May 26

Construction of new parliament building seen on this photo dated with April 30, 2012 (just 25 days before declared “opening”).

Construction of new Parliament building in Kutaisi will only be partially completed by Georgia’s Independence Day, but its chamber will be ready to host first parliamentary session on May 26 as scheduled, Mikheil Machavariani, deputy speaker of the Parliament, said on Tuesday.

“The [construction] of the building itself will not be over by May 26, but the chamber [for the parliamentary sittings] will be completed,” Machavariani said, adding that the new chamber “is very comfortable.”

MP Machavariani, who is the ruling party’s secretary general, made the remarks after MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze of the opposition parliamentary faction Unity for Justice told lawmakers not to take part in the planned session in the unfinished building of the new Parliament for safety reasons. He then recalled death of a woman and her child because of “a hasty” decision to remove the World War II memorial in Kutaisi to give way for construction of new parliament building in December, 2009.

President Saakashvili said (on May 2, 2012), that he had “no idea how the construction will be completed” by May 26 and added: “But I know for sure that there is no way for them [workers] not to complete” the construction in deadline. Sounds almost a threat…

“Ramaz Nikolaishvili [minister for regional development and infrastructure] may suffer a heart attack if the Parliament [building] is not finished… or many people may be held personally responsible for that,” Saakashvili said jokingly on May 5 when meeting with a group of students in Batumi. It sounds cynical, if one remembers that Ramaz Nikolaishvili had heart attack last year, when similarly pressed over timeline of Rikoti runnel construction…

according to  http://opinion.ge/?p=12188

Saakashvili admitted that all workers have been changed from Turks (which apparently refused to work in such hard timeline to Georgians (which still have not been paid for the job done months ago). Infrastructure Minister Nikolaishvili had to bring 30 welders from Batumi to Kutaisi.

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=24737

On May 10, 2012 Ruling UNM Secretary General Mikheil Machavariani admitted that it was impossible to finish the Parliament building in time, but stressed that building’s external work as well as session’s main hall would be finished for 26th, so there will be no problem to carry out inauguration and celebrating session.

Oppositionary faction Unity for Justice Member, MP Dimitry Lortkipanidze called decision about carrying out Parliament Session on May 26th in Kutaisi illegal and dangerous decision and added that their faction wouldn’t attend this dangerous PR event.

“- There is a “law on building/constructing activity”, which establishes rules for newly constructed building being accepted for exploitation. For that a special commission must research building’s quality, safety and sign so called Act of acceptance-delivery. And I have no idea, how the commission would sign such an act on the building which is halfway finished, especially as it is building of state importance! It is utmost important that safety issue for Kutaisi Parliament to be well studied. Kutaisi Parliament so far is half-ready product, and entering it is simply dangerous for person’s life. Therefore it is political and moral matter not to endorse this dangerous PR action of President Saakashvili by our attendance in it” – Said Lortkipanidze.

Another oppostionary faction – Christian Democratic Movement (CDM) also made exactly same judgment that time, however, they later have changed their position of non-participation and said they would participate in inauguration, which gave some Non-Parliament opposition another reason to call them again Saakashvili’s satellite party which mimics confrontation with ruling party but only at some extent.

http://www.kvirispalitra.ge/politic/12285-qmikheil-saakashvili-thbilisidan-quthaisshi-garbis-chven-ar-vapirebth-mas-gavekidothq.html

Aside of hardships of finishing the construction another important issue has attracted media attention two weeks before opening.

GEL 133.7 million (about USD 82.5 million) has been spent so far for ongoing construction of new Parliament building in Kutaisi, Georgian Finance Minister, Dimitri Gvindadze, told news agency InterPressNews on May 14. He said that public funds allocated from the state budget for construction works were fully transparent.

But Gvindadze remark was not just an act of sincerity, but rather a reply on the report by Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), released last month, which details legal aspects of the construction and its finances, says that information about the construction of the new Parliament building is actually in “secrecy” and spending of these public funds was “totally non-transparent”. www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=24765

One should remember that initial estimation of total cost of construction was only 57 mln GEL. And now it turns out that even 133.7 million is only midterm cost, still more than 80% of internal work to be finalized.

Inauguration

On May 26th an impressive ceremony of inauguration of new building has been carried out along with military parade in Kutaisi.

Saakashvili entered into the new Parliament chamber holding a hard hat in his hand and before taking floor to make a speech he went to a seat occupied by MP Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), and gave him the hard hat in what appeared to be a response to CDM’s earlier warnings not to hold the session in an unfinished new Parliament building for safety reasons. Lawmakers from CDM were not initially going to participate in a symbolic parliamentary sitting in the new chamber, but later revised their decision and they were present in Kutaisi. That gesture was intended to mock CDM for their fair that building could collapse. When doing that Saakashvili was not aware that destiny will play a very grim joke on his selfish arrogant step.

“Of course water will leak [from the roof] and of course wind may rip off part of the roof. Of course it will happen; such things can always happen when you build a new building. But we are being criticized for that by those people who have been destroying everything for past fifteen years and those who still want to throw [the country] into the past; I won’t accept this criticism from these people,” Saakashvili said in his speech.

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=24814

Another Accident – Saakashvili makes first statement floating a version which every state institution then supports

On June 7, Rezo Nebieridze, 60, a construction worker was killed as one wing of the new parliament building in Kutaisi collapsed Thursday afternoon. According to eyewitnesses, 22 people were injured, but this was unconfirmed.

Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili confirmed that one had died and that several are injured, before he began a live televised speech that had no connection to the accident, surrounded by teachers. For about half an hour before his acknowledgement there was some confusion, as several news agencies reported that there had been an accident, while the head of Parliament’s press office categorically denied that there had been a collapse. Saakashvili’s acknowledgement at 18:11 was , as well as P{resident’s the first official confirmation of the accident. It is very strange that no official institution has given an information until that live announcement by Saakashvili which was meeting pupils and devoted only 1 min to the tragic event, then continued his beloved «let’s talk about our achievements» play. I see explanation in his words that it was scaffolding which collapsed! Apparently there was few hours extensive brainstorming in the government about what to say – well everybody remembered too well Saakashvili’s rush, his pressure on the Minister and workers, and his cynical gesture with helmet (brave macho’s move vs. coward opposition)… So the solution was the following – let’s say it was not the building part which crashed, it was the scaffolding only. With that solution came another «decision» – there should be only one victim – as talk about many injured would spread the version that it was building’s collapse. So, despite of the fact that 4-5 ambulances were rushed out of the construction site after the tragedy, both Kutaisi municipality, Health ministry and all YNM servant media had stick with that version and never questioned 2 issues:

a)      Why site of tragedy was closed for 3 days?

b)      Why hospitals have been seized for 3-4 days for journalists.

Kutaisi Parliament collapse site (photo taken from about 800 m, as site was blocked for journalists)

Witnesses say the back wall of parliament’s chancellery part collapsed. The area was fenced off and journalists were not allowed in for nearly 3 days until all debris has been removed. President Saakashvili demands that a criminal investigation is initiated against those responsible for people not following safety rules during the construction work.

The Health Ministry has released a statement confirming one death. The statement also says that no-one was injured. The victim was brigadier Rezo Nebieridze, a man in his 60s from Zestaphoni. At the same time it should be noticed that all Kutaisi hospitals have been blocked by the Police for journalists for next few days, apparently trying to avoid information spread about other injured.

Construction work has been lagging behind, but Saakashvili several times in 2011 insisted that it would be formally opened on Independence Day May 26, 2012. The first session took place as planned, but the building was only half finished.

main source: http://dfwatch.net/one-dies-as-part-of-parliament-collapses-in-georgia-81129

A reasonable doubt with official version is born as few injured workers confirmed afterwards they had suffered injuries at workplaces, but insisted that happened on other work and other time. The most important is case of Niko Mamageishvili, 50 year old man from Kutaisi, who died due to work-related tragic accident and was buried on June 10. Local media outlet Newsspress.ge has started investigation and on June 8th the journalists (Kristina Karchkhadze and Thea Zibzibadze)  have been told at Kutaisi Clinical Hospital admission dept that this person was admitted to Hospital Emergency ward by ambulance on June 7 afternoon and he died due to multiple injuries after surgical operation. However, later the doctor of Emergency ward Lala Todadze had rejected initial version and said that patient was admitted on previous to Parliament’s collapse day – June 6th after falling from height, but apparently at another factory – so called Chinese factory located at former Truck factory territory. The case record and pathology record are consistent – registered at June 6th. However, Pathology Expert at National Expertise Bureau said he was unaware from which site the patient was taken. At the same time, when applied to the administration of Chinese factory, they said they don’t know such person and that there was no accident at all on June 6th neither next days at their facility! Kutaisi municipality officials strongly denied that Mamageishvili’s death was related to Parliament building accident, but they were extremely cautious explaining when and where the accident could have happened and they said this is being investigated. The deceased was a lonely man, and neighbors have been informed about his death when the body was taken to his house from the hospital – on June 8.

With hospitals being sealed for several days there is a chance to consider an option that Mamageishvili’s medical records were manipulated. In Saakashvili’s Georgia there have been multiple cases when both police, and medical personnel has changed the original data according to their wishes and political motives.

according to: http://newpress.ge/index.php?page=1&news_id=287

www.netgazeti.ge/GE/105/News/10227/

  

State offices absolve themselves of responsibility for the incident

on June 11, 2012 the investigative bodies arrested David Kavtaradze due to  the accident occurred near Kutaisi Parliament, according to Prosecutor General’s Office, he was responsible for security of buildings under construction near the administrative building. It is said that the manufacturer of the construction had not provided safety protection, as a result the building collapsed on 7 June 2012 and the company’s employee Rezo Nebieridze died from injuries incompatible with life.

According to the statement , the accused was charged under article 240 of the Criminal Code.

The Chairman of Architects Union David Abuladze explains that Construction Supervision Department which all regions have should control the construction safety standards. However, if there was no supervision by the controlling organization, workers could prove carelessness resulted in accident.

It is still unclear what company is constructing a building where the tragedy occurred. “Magi Style” which is implementing the Parliament building project says they have no connection with the collapsed building. To find out who is building the storeroom, we failed to get in touch with Kutaisi City Hall as well.

Bureau of Expertise at the Ministry of Economy announces that Supervisory Service  of  Tbilisi City Hall is responsible for control of construction projects and the case moves to the bureau  if any violation was found.

The accident in Kutaisi has become one of the key topics in the statements made by the political forces.

“Georgian Dream” coalition leader Bidzina  Ivanishvili said in the rally held in Kutaisi that the government and President named rehabilitation emergency and repaired and   painted facades of the unfortified building. “In most cases, these buildings are unsuitable for use after opening. Kutaisi, unfortunately, saw firsthand what results might such a construction lead to, “- Ivanishvili said.

http://www.commersant.ge/eng/?id=2271

Kutaisi Parliament story has been sad and troubling story – how one autoritarian man’s stubborn ideas, fear and wish for mass-manipulation could lead from one tragedy – to another, through waste of money and tear of people… The story is not yet over. As many experts say the building might have other time-bombs in it due to stupidity and voluntarism of a man who wants to be in charge – of everything… and forever… :((

——————————————————————————————————————

P.S.

«Who is John Bass?» – asks Georgian MP

Not long time ago, the outspoken herald of idea of Georgian Parliament’s move to Kutaisi, MP Akaki Bobokhidze has cemented his unique “role” in UNM by publicly questioning at Parliament session US Ambassador’s right to express his opinion about what he said are Georgian domestic issues. Here is an part of his interview with newspaper “Versia”:

Do you justify the recent activities of the Chamber of Control which so much breached all legal norms that even US Ambassador protested it?

– Who is John Bass to worry about his concern?

Why is US Ambassador more important figure in Georgia than let’s say Romanian Ambassador?

Do you know what real problem is? People believe legends and fairy-tales. They believe that Saakashvili’s presidency was settled in America and the fate of the future government will also be settled in the White House. It is not nice that John Bass was concerned about anything, but it is not imperative problem. We cannot be focused on John Bass’s reaction.

Since when the government of the National Movement does not pay attention to the remarks of the international organizations, or it is your personal opinion?

– When ruined building is renovated in one day without any legal documents, naturally we have questions how the money was spent and we request clarifications. We do our best for better development of the country. We will try to least irritate international organizations but if, for example, the ambassador gets concerned with my breakfast, I indeed cannot postpone my breakfast to sooth him. Generally, we act as if the US Ambassador is the second secretary of the Central Communist Committee in Georgia to control the government here. There is much difference between observation and curatorship; the latter is not correct. In 2003, during the transitional period of the Georgian government, US authority had good relation with Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze but Georgian population voted for Mikheil Saakashvili. So, in future too, America will have to put up with the result which will be acceptable for Georgian people. America requests only democratic elections from us and to assign the authority to a political power whom the population will elect. The National Movement will be the power which will win the parliamentary elections. Besides that, will not the opposition parties share the responsibilities with the government? Or the law restricts only the government? In general, our opposition makes scandal out of the least important detail; so, I have no desire to respond to rumors about me and fantasy of my enemies and rivals. It is less interesting for me but attitude of the society towards me is significant for me because it can impact my future political fate in the upcoming elections.

The only comment I would have – Mr. Bobokhidze is indeed a herald for UNM and he is too mean to speak on his behalf. So, what he said is something what Misha Saakashvili thinks, but so far prefers not to express those “feelings” by himself.


One Comment on “Why “Beacon of Democracy” Saakashvili moves Parliament from the capital. And martyrs of president’s voluntaristic but childish fantasies”

  1. karmen says:

    არც ერთ ენას არ ვფლობ საფუძვლიანად, ქართულის გარდა… ქართული ტექსტის დადება არ შეიძლება?


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