Georgia on our mind – Alternative Strategies and Surrealism of “Cohabitation” – Is Saakashvili Planning Counterstrike in April 2013?Posted: 2012/12/18
“Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.” (Abraham Lincoln).
For last month, the favorite slogan of western politicians towards the Georgian ones became an appeal to “Cohabitation”.
While idea of productive and civilized nearly-partnership between the government and opposition sounds elegant and utmost democratic, that is awfully far from Georgian nowadays reality and I try to explain, why it is so.
For the coming year Georgian politics will be given mainly two choices of alternative strategies:
a) the rigid one, which may be called “The winner takes it all”
b) or the softer one, which can be titled as “Survival for disarmament”.
However, the most interesting fact is that it is not the ruling party – Georgian Dream (GD), but the now-oppositionary, once mighty United National Movement (UNM), who should make the decisive choice between those two strategies. The paradox can be easily explained (though I am afraid western politicians either don’t, or won’t see this obvious fact) – it is the UNM, which still holds what I would call – A “Weapon of Mass Destruction” (WMD), and it is mainly pending on UNM leader’s decision whether to start a “disarmament”, – will the Georgian politics follow a rigid and dreadful confrontation, or a peaceful and civilized path of cohabitation.
First of all I would not discuss much how relevant is the fact of western politicians so dramatically questioning detainment of former governmental officials. Since the defeat of Saakashvili’s regimen prosecution has over 7,000 claims of Georgian citizens against former officials – and I don’t think anybody would dare to doubt whether that avalanche of claims is artificial. I wonder, who will say that politics should prevent justice and law to rule.
But let’s try to concentrate on issue of “cohabitation” and how sincerely former leadership thrives to achieve that “harmony”.
Explaining Saakashvili’s WMD – Georgian president, according to most absurd constitution which shrewd tailors tailored specifically for him in 2010 has one “magic wand” which I did call “WMD”. Here it comes: In a period of 1st – 30th of April, 2013 (6 months from parliamentary elections and 6 months before new presidential elections) President of Georgia can (without specific reasoning!) fire Prime-Minister and all powerful ministers (Justice, Interiors, Defense and Finance) and propose to the Parliament the candidates he trusts. Parliament may surely object that move, however, if President repeats his proposal twice more and Parliament objects all 3 times, then it signs verdict for itself: President will dissolve the Parliament as well and appoint new elections in 2 months term! (Actually, Saakashvili can dismiss the ministers any time he wishes, even now, but it is the Parliament’s dissolution which is only possible in that magic period of April, 2013!)
Now imagine that – Central Election Commission is still leaded by Saakashvili’s man – Zurab Kharatishvili, Supreme Court – similarly by Saakashvili’s man Kote Kublashvili, similarly – National Bank of Georgia and State Audit Service are under Saakashvili loyalists. If now Saakashvili adds Vano Merabishvili as a powerful Prime Minister, and – Data Akhalaia (still at large) or even his more notorious brother Bachana (now in prison waiting for trial on multiple accounts, but Saakashvili can pardon him personally any moment he decides so) – as a Defense and Interiors Ministers, this will be very different situation in a very different country! All that could be accompanied by imprisonment of current ministers on various charges (most notorious – being a spy for foreign country!).
Of course, one can say that as UNM’s current rating is only 13% vs. 63% of GD (according IRI recent poll), snap elections will bring the same result as in October, or even more disappointing (for Saakashvili) one. But I doubt that. And here it’s why:
– Since October 2nd Saakashvili prizes himself for allowing Ivanishvili’s party to win in what he calls in fair and transparent elections. Let me refrain from discussion how much “fair and transparent” that election was and why Saakashvili hasn’t used all his power of manipulation and intimidation, but, please, pay attention to another thing which became Saakashvili’s mantra since then: “In a truly democratic country power transfer should happen at least twice in two consecutive elections” – he says and says endlessly. So, Saakashvili’s demand to western allies would be this – “I gave chance to defeat myself to GD in October, now it’s GD’s turn to allow UNM to take power back…” Saakashvili will this time use all 100% of his intimidation and manipulation techniques despite of what would the West say. In October he had some illusion that he might still win with the minor manipulations at regions, now he has no illusions and will make control shot.
– Certainly, only manipulations would not drug 13% above 50%. But UNM already has started his campaigns of sabotage and propaganda, which will be surely upgraded dramatically before April 2013. The main propaganda message so far is to spread a rumor in society – “Ivanishvili will not last more than 6 months! We will return in April!” Sabotage campaign so far is limited to 2 main issues: “criminal is unleashed! Public safety is at danger!” and “what a terrible religious intolerance around!” In fact there are alarming signs in both directions; however, there is terribly much ado about so far small something in Saakashvili-faithful media and by his fans at social media. At the same time there have been several episodes of finding large stocks of hidden ammunition ( http://dfwatch.net/large-ammunition-depot-found-in-south-georgia-64315 ). After 1st of October there were many cases when police didn’t come for citizen’s call – cynically responding – “you’ve got what you voted for!” and even now often some serviceman, answering to the emergency calls for certain accidents (water, sewage, electricity, gas) do not hide that they won’t come in time. Also, interestingly, since elections Tbilisi municipality has hired several hundreds new personnel on different newly established or expanded services (audit, special security, counseling, etc) – 90% of them are ex-government officials (like ex-minister of economics Vera Kobalia) which need “support until comback”. Similarly, many new NGO’s emerged (one leaded by ex-deputyr Foreign Minister Kapanadze) and just recently Saakashvili issued decree to support NGOs, establishing 1 million foundation, which is chaired by former deputy-minister of Foreign Affiars – Nino Kalandadze – guess to whom the money goes… Saakashvili seeds and feeds poison ivys of government subversion…
I envision some new frontiers of sabotage+propaganda in coming months:
- Currency rates manipulations and elements of Bank crisis;
- Shortage of electricity and gas supply (as the cold weather will be present) with possible increase on petrol prices;
- Some shortage of food supply and fear of food crisis with increased inflation
- Sea and train cargo problems;
- more criminal acts against foreigners;
- most critical ones – diversions on energy pipelines and at borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, probably in Samtskhe-Javakheti as well.
When I say – “Sabotage+Propaganda” – I really mean that combination. It may be just a little bit of subversion and maximum of propaganda. Much Ado about Something”.
Presumably, in all these systems and institutions there are people which may be ready for subversion acts. Please note, that food and petrol import was (and still is!) totally controlled by Saakashvili’s inner circle, National Bank is still governed by Saakashvili’s man, so is the National Security Council leaded by Giga Bokeria and all influential Ambassadors, which Saakashvili protects vehemently from being replaced by the new government! And in border patrol as well as in police still are some persons who wouldn’t mind Saakashvili returning to power in April. Therefore, some human resources for the sabotage campaign might exist in shadow waiting for a command sign.
Although I exclude that those acts of sabotage would be terribly widespread and seriously affecting national security. Those scattered episodes will not probably change weather, but would be enough ground for Saakashvili Goebelsian disinformation propaganda machine for modeling a storm both domestically and internationally. Giga Bokeria’s wife Tamara Chergoleishvili is engaged in developing new TV which will be all information/political talk shows, the new media will be funded by Pro-Saakashvili tycoons like ex-State Minister Kakha Bendukidze and ex-Defense minister David Kezerashvili. Rustavi2-TV is still controlled by close friends of Saakashvili – Karamanishvili brothers, and General manager is ex-Saakashvili Minister Nick Gvaramia. Similarly Georgian Public Broadcasting (TV1) still has the same Board composed by Saakashvili and will probably again choose a director according to Saakashvili’s taste. By using those resources along with strong lobbying companies and yet controlled embassies, would give Saakashvili perfect chance to multiply 10- or even 100-folds those single episodes of either sabotage or mistakes, and set up virtual reality that everything is disastrous in Georgia. While the UNM propaganda machine sets up the virtual reality for domestic and foreign audience, Saakashvili will travel along the world and direct his poisonous remarks toward Georgian government in style of braveheart William Wallace – “I must free my homeland from those tyrants!”
If the planned counterstrike is planned, the episodes of both subversion and UNM-propaganda must rise soon – before and after New Year. As a result uncertainty will grow and investments flow will shrink, with more time going and without significant achievement in economics felt, the 20-27% of society which now hesitates to reveal his potential sympathies, less and less will give their votes to GD. The now-ruling GD has given too much promises to the people, but coming to the power and discovered only 200 million GEL in treasure instead of announced by the UNM 2 billion, as well as due to committed by Merabishvili’s government transfer of the funds from state budget to the municipal and President-controlled funds, also due to huge International debts accumulated by Saakashvili and interests to be paid – all these made those pre-election promises nearly impossible to be met. There should be reasonable doubt that UNM will collect all of those hesitant votes, but the image of “victims” which they try to embed, and possible marriage with UNM-made “born to be called oppositionary” parties like Christian-Democratic movement, Labor party, National Democrats and some others could create a solid base to which CEC and [back to Misha’s control] police will add the rigged results of snap elections. Therefore, usage of the above-called “WMD” by Saakashvili in April 2013 seems not all that stupid, especially as it is indeed the very last chance for Misha to regain lost power.
Most of westerners – reading my hypothesis about UNM-planned counterstrike in April would consider that groundless “conspiracy theory”. I have no prove, but please note that on December 14th many influential UNM members, including ex-deputy Justice minister and ex-Chair of Public Registry and now MP (UNM) George Vashadze have posted a strange one-word post in their Facebook – saying only this – “April!” (some others – “in April”). When he was asked what exactly was meant in this strange phase, he tried not to answer, smilingly saying that April is simply an important month in Georgia, that there was renewing of Georgia’s independence in April and it is a month when Spring and revival really come to Georgia (!)
Well, it should be obvious that GD – PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, Parliament, and the Government of Georgia will not solemnly observe all that jazz played by Saakashvili and the rigid strategy will be met by equally rigid counterstrike.
GD has already established a department in the government responsible for communication strategy, as it was admitted that UNM has won the first round of post-election communication battle, portraying themselves in a skin of poor victims. West has no time, and probably even no intention, to go in deep details what is the reason of so many ex-officials being or to be detained. For being a long-time partner of Saakashvili, it should be indeed damned hard to admit that what they fed for all those years was simply a democrat-shaped authoritarian regime, something like Peruvian president Fujimori along with sadistically cruel Interiors Montessino (I would like to refer to very interesting article by Irakli Zurab Kakabadze called Orwell Today – http://arcade.stanford.edu/orwell-today)
Equally important is to reveal those thugs – in police, financial or energy sectors – which may have engaged in sabotage campaign… Surely that needs to be done with crystal clarity and objective investigation.
Equally important is to reveal modeled propaganda… surely without censorship to be reinstated.
But as the main element of Saakashvili strategy lies in “magic wand” of April counterrevolution, the main element of GD strategy might be to deprive Saakashvili of his “WMD”! If that is done, all other strikes and counterstrikes would be already unnecessary to worry about. By neutralizing main threat coming from Saakashvili, GD will have chance to ignore other destructive games and concentrate on economy and social sector’s rebuild.
Two major tactics of neutralization are as follow:
– presidential impeachment – clearly the most irritant for the West path, as West loves obedience to the terms of election and there is nothing wrong with this conservatism;
– earlier implementation of constitutional changes, now set for October 2013. This sounds as rather sophisticated tactics, as according to Georgian constitution President holds his office for no more than 5 years. And after snap elections of 2008 that term now expires Jan 20th, 2013. It is true that according to 2010 amendments presidential elections are set to be carried out in October, however, the amenders have forgotten to amend the former paragraph, which now creates a constitutional conflict. Possible solutions might be the following:
- a) Along with announcing constitutional reform earlier onset, parliament might approve that snap presidential elections are held in 2 months after the term of Saakashvili expires on Jan 20, 2013; with the subsequent Presidential elections to be held in month of October (according to constitution), but earlier than 5 years from March, 2013 elections – October 2017.
- b) Along with announcing constitutional reform earlier onset, Parliament adopts a special exclusion that President Saakashvili holds his position (though already with changed – diminished responsibilities and functions!) until presidential elections of October 2013. Then the circle of every 5 year elections continues.
Needless to say that both options require constitutional majority in the Parliament.
So, the main vector of GD counterstrategy in case of UNM’s rigid strategy would be to acquire constitutional (2/3) majority and enact constitutional changes earlier – at least before April, 2013, making Misha’s “magic wand” void.
Both sides desperately need to seed a hope among the supporters and despair a hope among the opponents. That’s why their strategy is brutally rigid and excludes any liberal attitude towards yet undefeated opponent. Therefore all appeals regarding “Cohabitation” are useless. Nobody believes in cohabitation with the rival which has rigid strategy and WMD against the one to follow “the winner takes it all” principle. So the appeals for democratic stance from the UNM sounds utmost cynical after all those years of total control of media and courts, suppression of lawyers and intimidation of free journalists, after hundreds of cases of political detainment and dozens of political refugees, recognized by the governments of US, Canada, Germany, France and Switzerland. Only 0.03% of acquittal at UNM ruled courts, almost 30,000 prisoners and over 100,000 on probation, hundreds of millions USD taken from Georgian citizens as process agreement fees and used to buildup Reichstag-type super-palace for the President of defeated state… several years imprisonment for stealing goods worth of <$10 and only 2-3 years (often on probation) for torturing and killing young people, absolutely fake cases against spy-journalists, against invented “Russian-spy/terrorists” trying to explode US embassy – all these cases are now on renewed trial. Already over 7,000 Georgians have complained that former government robed them, killed their relatives, taken their goods, threatened and confiscated their property, fabricated cases and put them in jail, fired or jailed on political grounds… That’s why Saakashvili has only the last chance to impress the world, which tomorrow – after the trials are over – might hear a very different story regarding Georgian version of “Animal farm” or even – of “1984”.
A Soft Strategy
Surprisingly the soft strategy differs not much from the rigid one – it only considers the main actors replacing their roles and actions.
The start-up point could have been self-disarmament of the UNM!
That may sound ridiculous, but it is not. President Saakashvili needs to give up his “magic wand” – an opportunity to dismiss both the government and the parliament in April! In case he himself initiates the earlier enacting of constitutional reform, then GD will have no fear of power removal and logically its actions will also become much softer.
– in case president doesn’t have chance to dismiss the whole parliament and government in April, GD’s strategy for presidential impeachment through acquisition of 2/3 majority in the parliament sounds not as important as it is so far. Similarly, central government might distance more vigorously from process of local governments’ “reshape” due to local residents protest actions.
– Former Speaker of UNM and now the fiercest rival of Saakashvili, Nino Burjanadze calls now up for “deNacification” of Georgian politics and some sort of Nuremberg trial of UNM (accepting, by the way, her personal role and responsibility also to be put in the trial). However, by doing the above mentioned self-disarmament, UNM has good chance to survive as a political party, although a re-branding might be still imminent for them.
– if the above-mentioned sacrifice will be performed by Saakashvili, there is no doubt that West would be much more demanding in its stance for “Cohabitation” and maybe even some political guarantees for Misha will be taken at the table of discussion.
So this is what might be a good agenda for Soft strategy – UNM will remain as influential opposition and have political survival; Saakashvili may serve his term till end (October 2013) peacefully. There is no guarantee that some of UNM leaders who committed crimes will escape the trails (and they should not – justice should be empowered in Georgia), but certainly some shorter terms could be sentenced and may be in some cases, whenever suitable, financial punishment (property confiscation), probation or something else might be found as enough measure.
When I called the constutional “magic wand” of Saakashvili as “WMD”, it was of course exaggeration; however, there is a large portion of truth in this joke. I‘ll try to explain why I think so:
In case Mikheil Saakashvili (as a well-known bloody-risky politician, which despite of US warnings engaged in a war with nuclear superpower) really decides to use that weapon – groundlessly dismissing the government and the parliament and reinstating his guard as a self-appointed ruling gang, nobody should have doubts this won’t be met with the lambs silence! After all those years of fear and intimidation the main gaining so far are the political freedoms which Georgian citizens have regained since the win of GD. It will be impossible to “enslave” people again. Quite possibly both in police and in army there will be commanders happy with Misha’s return, but there will be units which could remain faithful to Ivanishvili’s government. And so we would have terrible clashes which rapidly could become a full-scale civil war.
So that strategy will then definitely be a WMD for Georgians self-termination…
US and Western politicians have been long-term ally for Mikhail Saakashvili. They often regarded him as an exemplary regional reformer and “beacon of democracy”. I strongly disagree with those overestimated applauds – whilst being more western-minded than his ex-USSR neighbors, still if Saakashvili was a beacon, than a beacon of façade-democracy and of plutocracy.
So, remembering an excellent advice of President Lincoln, it probably would be wise for western politicians to depart from what clearly became wrong assumption quite time ago…Better late than never… If they really prefer to have a peaceful resolution for fierce political confrontation in Georgia, they have to carefully evaluate Mikheil Saakashvili’s desire to be a man of peace and cohabitation, not of a confrontation and plotting…
Once West made a terrible miscalculation on that account…