There has been a ruffle in the Georgian TVs lately, whether the revolution, coup d’état, destabilization, provocation or at least – some clash will take place in Georgia.
This question popped up on September 26th, when the United National Movement-affiliated group “Free Zone” was left by some activists, among them – 117th MP candidate of the UNM electoral list. The former “Free Zone” activists declared the UNM leaders, among them Mikheil Saakashvili, were demanding they stirred and participated in modelled provocations and civic disturbances on Election Day. They noted leaving the group was a sign of protest and added UNM had created a new organization– “In the name of loyalty to Georgia” – for meeting the above-mentioned purposes.
Next day (27.09) an audio file was uploaded on YouTube. The file reveals, most likely, Mikheil Saakashvili and four United National Movement elite leaders of the UNM’s electoral list, agree their party will lose the elections. However, as it is unacceptable for them to represent a second party or join some coalitions (unlike Giga Bokeria’s vision), speakers are discussing coup d’état scenario and are going through various components of civic disturbances, such as – the tent protests, hiring demonstrators, intruding buildings, sexual abuse and other details. One of the speakers proudly announces about his experience in participating and carrying out a military coup (presumably – in 1991).
Soon afterwards (28.09) and day after the Aghmashenebeli Avenue was festively opened, a march of Georgian Nationalists – embellished with fascist symbols and storming the Avenue, trying to raid Turkish shops and restaurants – took place. Police managed to neutralize their attempts and arrested 10 participants.
Finally, on September 29th the Ministry of Internal Affairs rather suddenly announced the discovery of a large arms stock. MIA declared, the arms stock (hidden on different territories of Norio, Gori, Saguramo and on two other places in Tbilisi) was hidden within 2009-2011 years. The fact is impressive but also interesting, why this announcement coincided with the events described above. It is obvious the MIA had been discovering the arms stocks at different times.
Above these, we hear statements of Mikheil Saakashvili and the director of Rustavi2 TV that for them the principal source of legitimacy of the election outcome will be exit poll results of the GFK (German polling organization hired by Rustavi2).
Now, let’s try to analyze the situation in the country and try to answer the questions posed above – if anyone is trying to stage some coup d’état or whether they can manage to do so.
- Revolution or Ruffle?
There are different possibilities for a noisy and violent development of conditions, or – different phases. It can be a ruffle or confrontation among various party/candidate supporters, which usually characterizes the electoral campaign. Such cases have never been a surprise for independent Georgia but it is a little unexpected we witnessed similar developments in the US at the electoral meetings of Donald Trump.
Regarding the possibility of a coup d’état or a revolution:
For a coup, Mikheil Saakashvili needs some devoted (ready to fight) personnel at the law enforcement agencies (medium or high level) and guerrilla forces, quite a heavy armament, supportive TV/media and a distinct political support of a foreign power – the USA, Europe, Russia or Turkey. Except the strong media resource (Rustavi2), Saakashvili doesn’t possess any other listed requirements.
If Mikheil Saakashvili is left only with the experience of Kako Bobokhidze (apparently the UNM MP, proudly reminding his military coup experience), he really must not have anything else to rely on… The statement of the US ambassador to Georgia – noting the electoral environment in the country is so good that he wishes it was currently similar in the USA, was unexpected cold shower for the United National Movement; as the MP members of it – Giorgi Kandelaki and Tinatin Bokuchava, also – former Ambaasador in US Temur Iakobashvili try their best in the USA and Europe to paint a bad picture of electoral campaign in Georgia as if there is a terrible terror raged against the opposition party.
Revolution needs even more factors – people’s attitudes, high level of dissatisfaction, readiness for confrontation or coming out in the streets, total ignorance of people’s needs by the government, etc. The truth is, there is no such thing right now, and let us not forget that:
- Georgia and Georgian society vividly remember how coups and revolutions have “benefited” us! I think, Georgian society is sufficiently mature, thus far from supporting an aggressive development of scenarios as they will not trade a barely-achieved stable life over a coup. Even though stable life may really not be enough and, quite possibly, many citizens are not satisfied, it doesn’t reach the levels they rose up to overthrow the government.
- Return of Mikheil Saakashvili and his destructive, inhuman team/methods, will be perceived by many as a return of a regime thirsty for revenge. I do not know, if Sandra Roelofs really saw a beam of repentance in the eyes of his spouse, but we remember rather well Saakashvili’s sarcastic giggle in conversation with other female, saying: “I swear, blood is going to spill over there”. And no one shall forget that there is a perception in the society that the current Government has been too loyal to the members of this regime. Thus, revoking such scenario could put the masterminds – legally as well as practically – in a grave position!
Therefore, to my mind, the most realistic, that the UNM and its de-facto leader can make – is a destabilization. Destabilization by stirring provocations, which we are probably going to see in the following days.
- Destabilization Effort and Two Versions of it –
2.1. Creating a ruffle
It is possible that besides the actually planned provocations, the UNM tactics will include rigging elections (falsifications) for creating a ballyhoo about expected revolutionary disasters! Do not forget, that weakness of power obliges them to strengthen the power of their noise, and this is the area where they still maintain the most robust resource they possess – Goebbels-like skills of demagogue + Rustavi2 TV.
We have already seen many examples of such modelling/simulations:
2.1.1 – Mikheil Saakashvili “preaching” from a pulpit of a church in New York (message – Georgian church and Georgian believers, at least abroad – support Mikheil Saakashvili!). Later, it was figured out that the speech was made at the Ukrainian Catholic Church – rented by Saakashvili’s electorate for the scheduled meeting and no one else was allowed in there!
2.1.2. – Mikheil Saakashvili’s video with the Washington Monument in the background! Message – the US, its (deceased, alive or future) leaders and its democratic symbols support “the beacon of democracy”! – The truth of the matter is, any dictator, if she/he is granted the visa, will manage to record a video with the Washington Monument in the background. It is also said Mikheil Saakashvili attended some kind of conference in DC and delivered a speech but what he talked about or what responses he received, is unknown. Rustavi2 showed the footage of Saakashvili’s meeting with John McCain without any comments or statements, which makes me thinking Misha did not receive a desired welcome from the US political elite.
2.1.3 –Giga Bokeria and Nick Melia recently “informed” society that Bidzina Ivanishvili is planning to leave the country after losing the elections! And they begged him not to do so – advising him to simply move to the opposition, and promise not to persecute or imprison him. The same was affirmed by their leader from Washington. In short, it was a pretty disturbing, surrealistic episode – Salvador Dali would be jealous!
2.1.4 – And finally, I’m not sure if anyone was surprised after hearing that GFK, a polling company hired by Rustavi 2 revealed in its latest parliamentary election polls that the UNM is already ahead of the Georgian Dream in their survey results. It’s true that the advantage is only minimal and equals to 0.6% (26% vs. 25.4%), but rest assured that in the remaining few days, it will grow quasi-geometrically and by the election day it might even be 51% vs 22%. Who’s going to discourage them from announcing such a result? By the way, the field work of GFK is done by a company called BCG, the founder of which is Levan Tarkhnishvili, the MP from UNM and the former head of the Central Election Commission in 2008, the master of multiple mishandling during two elections that year. The current director of BCG is his wife, – Mrs Ani Tarkhnishvili. How convenient? Coud you imagine, what kind of “fieldwork” they provide for statstical analysis to GFK?
2.1.5 – The most interesting detail in all this was the fact that Rustavi2 and UNM propagandists came up with a blatant lie that 30% of Georgia’s population supported the UNM. And they supposedly based this number on Ivanishvili’s comment. In reality, what Ivanishvili actually said was that 30% of the population was still undecided and that some 150,000-200,000 people were loyal to UNM. If we convert these numbers into percentage points, it’s around 10-12% of the expected electorate out of 1.5-1.7 million people.
This fact-less propaganda serves one purpose: to cheer up UNM’s loyal base, which seems to be slowly imploding and unraveling itself. The party leaders are trying their best to assure their supporters that all is well and the UNM is surely winning the elections. As Saakashvili proclaimed recently from a pulpit of a New York church, if government loses one region, they will lose it all. (Quite honestly, I do not know in which election code he read this absurdity or based on what logic he arrived at that conclusion, very interesting indeed!)
2.2 Real attempt
Saakashvili will have a go, and he already did.
2.2.1 – We ought to recall his leaked telephone conversations a year ago with Rustavi2 Director Nika Gvaramia and one of UNM leader – Giga Bokeria. That phone talk was not disavowed by these individuals. In the leaked audio files, Saakashvili demands that Gvaramia filled Rustavi 2 premises with “combatants” and emphasizes the benefit of a mother or a child getting hurt in the clashes when police storms the TV. After these dialogues surfaced, law enforcement agencies launched an investigation into an attempted coup.
2.2.2 – In recent leaks, which include conversations probably initiated by Saakashvili (participants of the dialogues do not doubt the authenticity of their voices, they simply state that the audio files are edited and reflect different periods and conversations), the participants are pretty assured that they will lose the elections (they all agree on that) and therefore, it is indispensable to have a revolutionary scenario. Saakashvili says that Bokeria is contemplating a possible coalition after the defeat in elections and he underscores how unacceptable that path is. He says he is hopeful of Kako (a party member), who in turn proudly declares that he has experience in organizing and carrying out a coup.
2.2.3 – It is noteworthy that both Saakashvili and the director of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia believe that the revolution can be prompted if the election results after the elections do not match the exit-poll presented by GFK (a polling company hired by Rustavi 2) on election day evening. There was a time when the success of the elections for Saakashvili was simply confirmed by the full loyalty of the head of Central Election Commission, or a congratulatory call from George W. Bush in the late afternoon of yet election day, or a preliminary report of the OSCE-ODIHR, or a statement by the US Ambassador in Georgia… However, the bar of legitimacy for him is very low at this point and the exit polls carried out by a polling company, hired by his loyal TV company is his only “trump card”! We are talking about the same polling company that in 2012 was hired by the government-controlled Georgian Public Broadcaster and which gave the Georgian Dream 33% in its polls, a number which missed the final result not by acceptable error (3%), but by 22% (GD received 55%)! Today, the GFK polls show that the UNM is “winning” and quite possibly this advantage will increase progressively or geometrically in subsequent days. Sergi Kapanadze and other de-jure leaders of UNM maintain that they trust the results of the Central Election Commission, but these are statements that can be swiftly neglected when UNM’s top 10 proportional list candidates get the appropriate orders from Saakashvili.
2.2.4 – Few days ago, in the village Didinedzi of Zugdidi municipality, the UNM activists, including the former governor of the village, severely beat up the representatives of Georgian Dreams youth organization. They injured a girl (Lika Demetradze) by hitting a stone at her head and 3 other members of the Georgian Dream have been transferred to the hospital (she still remains at the hospital). This incident shows preparedness for a bloody confrontation and sets an example for future illicit activity.
2.2.5 – The leaders of the UNM probably believe that getting into the parliament and having 4 more years of political activism would be a satisfactory result for them, but Mikheil Saakashvili believes otherwise! He absolutely refuses to accept that outcome. Even seeing his wife as an MP is not sufficiently pleasing to him, because the parliamentary immunity cannot shield the MP’s spouse. Therefore, as is typical of a feverish brain of an adventurer, the mind of the Odessa governor is processing several different provocation variations, which will enable him to return to Georgia, triumphantly mounted on a white horse. His provocative nature has no bounds; he is capable and ready to endanger not only his countrymen, but his own party members and a close circle of supporters, friends and relatives, just to procure even minimal, illusory chances. On the other hand, it is interesting to see if his inner-circle decides to follow him into the political grave and whether citizens do decide to get trapped by his deliberate provocations.
- Pre-election environment – a positive reality
3.1 – I have already written about the utterly positive statement made by the US Ambassador to Georgia.
3.2. – The preliminary report of the OSCE observers mission was also quite positive, although it was clearly stated that animosity and mutual antipathy is prevalent between the two parties.
3.3. – Fortunately, Georgia is not anymore a country, where the fate of the elections is decided by secret fax reports received on a fax machine, hidden in the safe in the office of the chairperson of the Central Election Commission, loyal to the United National Movement. That was the past – case of 2008 elections. The false IDs were used extensively during that period; the government arranged the so-called “carousel voting”; police was illegally and indiscriminately seizing the ballot boxes, and the ballots in massive numbers were dumped into trash containers. There was intense pressure on voters, as well as on the opposition members of the Commission; even in 2012 we witnessed incidents where masked gunmen would remove the ballot boxes from the districts by force. Furthermore, in 2008, the head of the EU mission to Georgia, Mr. Peter Semneby was literally kidnapped by the UNM gangs from the polling station and was locked away in a barn at an undisclosed location. It’s striking that Peter Semneby, who early on realized with whom he was dealing, preferred not to say anything about the incident, which by itself is a shameful act and further underscored the ugliness of the violent regime of Saakashvili. In 2008 presidential elections, Saakashvili won only by 3.7% in the first round. Only after several months did OSCE-ODIHR final report announced that the vote counting was flawed, – either “bad” or “very bad” – in 19% of all polling stations. I think it is obvious who was a benefactor in those 19%, and who has suffered, and so if not this rigged election, Saakashvili would not have won by 3.7%. Therefore, second round would have been inevitable.
3.4. – This was all in the past. Now instead of 30% majoritarian barrier (decreased by UNM previously) it has been raised back to 50% based on the Venice Commission recommendations. And, similarly, based on the Venice Commission recommendations the majoritarian districts have been equalized, now having more or less equal number of voters. Electronic ID cards reduced the chance of forgery to the minimal level. The voter lists are dramatically more accurate at the polling stations and now contain photos of voters, which again, reduces the chances of rigging to their minimum. And finally, the vote counting will be transmitted live by streaming on the internet, so anyone can watch the process from their computers. All of these measures predispose transparent elections. Nowhere in the world do exit polls serve as the basis of the elections. On the contrary, the closeness of exit poll data to the election results, reflects the accuracy of those exit polls and not vice versa, as Mikheil Saakashvili and Nika Gvaramia would like it to be!
- Questions to the government:
4.1. Are there any updates on the investigation initiated last year in connection with the Coup d’état? Who has been interrogated so far and what results have been achieved? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to conduct legal phone call interceptions of Mikheil Saakashvili and his party activists, who constantly fly to Odessa where they get new directives, and label these interceptions as official sources instead of using other, unknown informers?
4.2. Why exactly now has the information on illegal arms stock been made public? If such an amount of illegal arms was discovered – has anyone been questioned yet? What information do we have so far and who organized these secret hiding places?
4.3. Who was the mastermind behind the protest demonstration of the Nationalist Group that marched on Agmashenebeli Avenue? Who drives the ideological and financial mechanisms of this group? Does anyone think that this is the time when Mr. Saakashvili would want to prove to Mr. Erdogan that after he left the country, Turkish nationals and businessmen are being targeted?
4.4. If the UNM leaders refuse to show up now at the State Security Service for an interrogation when are they going to be interrogated, then?
4.5. How long before the interception recordings are declared authentic? If they are proved to be genuine and if we still have ongoing elections what procedures are there to make sure that no one can escape from justice?
4.6. During the last week until the elections, besides the rise of UNM activity society could have questions about parallel, sudden discoveries of secret phone recordings, of illegal arms hides or something else as well in future: how can one dismiss a logical doubt that these discoveries were pre-saved to be revealed at the last minute? And when we see the obvious manipulations of voters opinion from UNM side, how “justified” it would be to have counter-manipulations from the government or law enforcement officials?
- Possible demonstrations of the other parties
The UNM is not the only party possibly willing to put questions about the results of the elections: Both pro-Russian parties’ leaders – Nino Burjanadze and also Shalva Natelashvili (Labor Party) stated that the rating of their parties may be… even 80%! The Patriotic Alliance of Georgia (another party leaning to Russia) has also declared that they are winning the elections (claiming minimum of 30% of the votes). Paata Burchuladze’s party, despite the disorganized processes inside his party, often reminds us that it is the only opposition party oriented on people and having real chance to come to power (despite of polls giving them something 3-10%). Free Democrats and Republicans also do not hide their ambitions. If all of these parties get the minimum number of votes necessary to overcome the electoral threshold, this should already amount to more than 30% of all votes ad minimum. And if we envisage the ambitions of the leaders of these parties, it is not inconceivable that even if entering the parliament, some of them express protest and join the doubts articulated by the UNM. It is possible that many of them conduct their own exit polls and announce that they trust these “accurate exit polls” and not the ones of the Central Election Commission.
Thus, it is very important that no doubts prompted by the announcement of the election results. The Central Election Commission and the authorities must conduct an active, open and transparent communication with the population. Law-enforcement agencies should be mobilized, but very cautious not to help raise doubts on the fairness of the electoral process by offering undue intervention and pressure.
In my opinion, in spite of the possible, diverse range of provocations, October 8 will be a peaceful process, because the majority of Georgian population has gotten some harsh lessons in the past 25 years. Georgian people do not see any real benefit from revolutionary processes and exalted adventurers. In other words, attempts at destabilization will not find a fertile ground.
At the same time, we should not forget that if on October 8 we have destabilization in parts of the country (mainly in Samegrelo or Adjara), this might be used well by Russia, which currently does not have much time for Georgia, but will not refuse to use the chance, if such chance is served to it by Georgian political parties’ ruthlessness towards one another or modelled provocations aiming at creating a pseudo-revolutionary environment.
Mikheil Saakashvili will not heed these warnings, just like he did not take into consideration the warnings given to him from domestic and foreign players in 2008. Everyone must remember (his supporters, as well as government and other actors) that when the organizer of destabilization is in trouble, he will find a way to escape; however, we might have to pay a considerable price for such an adventure– just like the populations of Kodori, Akhalgori and Tamarasheni did in 2008…
(Concise translation of last part of the post on Georgian).
There are not so many cases in modern history when the highest-ranking official, after losing elections, decides to adopt citizenship of a foreign country and then tries to conquer Olympia in other state’s politics. Georgians had somewhat similar experience with Shevardnadze (returning back to Tbilisi from Moscow), though it was rather a special historical context with empire dissolving, new independent state emerging, etc…
But to my knowledge, it is with Mikheil Saakashvili that we are witnessing an unprecedentedly unique experiment in the world politics – a person, who is under 4 different investigations in his homeland has relocated to another country (a strategic ally of Georgia!), adopted this country’s citizenship (automatically refusing his Georgian one), claims to be #1 reformer in the new land and doesn’t make secret of his intentions to target its highest political positions!
At the same time, it is obvious (and many of his admirers both at home and abroad admit to this fact readily) that with the denial of Georgian citizenship, Mikheil Saakashvili has not at all seized an opportunity for a triumphal return to Georgian politics. Nevertheless, many have assessed his departure to Ukraine – along with several dozen faithful and skilled team members – as an attempt to set up a “platzdarm”, a springboard that would toss him back to Georgia. This very scenario – willingness to run political processes in both countries simultaneously – makes Misha’s case a truly unique adventure.
Brief excerpt from one of my first blogs called – “Journalists and Urnalists” https://solomonternaleli.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/154/
The very sharp and interesting documentary by Nino Zuriashvili (Studia Monitori) depicts dramatic fate of Georgian televisions. http://www.ijp.ge/video_blank.php?vid=38
In 2004, when UNM came to power, there were 12 independent TV companies in Georgia, 4 of which had nation-wide coverage and at least 6 were independent from government control. In just 4 years since the Rose Revolution, 11 out of 12 (all but “Caucasia TV”) have changed their ownership or lost the broadcasting license! The studies funded by European Union and Transparency International-Georgia have shown that TV ownership is directly correlated with the degree of state control of those television companies, and eventually, public trust is affected by the identity of TV company owners.
In 2009, despite legal constraints, owners of 45 TV channels (Misha has replaced the quality by quantity to cover up the decline in media-freedom indecies), have been either acting (or former) members of government or their close relatives; in Akhmeta district – the owner was the local municipality itself! It was later revealed that persons close to the government, (or their relatives/neighbors) would suddenly and unexpectedly become owners of large packages of television companies’ shares, sometimes in several companies at the same time. In this spirit, dubious off-shore company called Degson Limited Holding, owned two reputable tv companies, “Rustavi 2” and “Mze”. Another mystical organization – Denial Union – owned 100% of “Sakartvelo” (a tv company associated with the Ministry of Defense) and 51% in “Evrika”.
The legal structure/status of an Arab investment company called “Rakeen”, along with its supposed subsidiary “Rakeen Georgia Holding” (which owned 90% in “Imedi”, another major tv company) was also quite uncertain. In 2010, the management of Rakeen denied any connection with “Rakeen Georgia Holding”, which further strengthened the suspicion that the real owners of this company were Georgians, and most probably, closely affiliated with the United National Movement. http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=21950
The primary shareholders (by year 2007) were Kibar Khalvashi, Davit Bezhuashvii, an off-shore “Geomedia Group” and a company called “Magi Stili”, founders of which were Gogi Gegeshidze and Irakli Chikovani. Kibar Khalvashi was deleted from this list the same day when his friend and government’s primary fulcrum Irakli Okruashvili resigned, while the owners of 6 different tv companies (“Rustavi 2”, “Mze”, “Imedi”, “Obiektivi”, “Evropa”, “Sakartvelos Khma”) have been seeking to restore their violated rights with the help of judicial organs since 2008…
to Western Diplomats
The positive side of Mikheil Saakashvili was that he knew the fundamentals of democracy and could talk in the western way.
The flaw of Mikheil Saakashvili was that he mainly needed the knowledge of fundamentals of democracy and western conversation manners for one thing – to cover up his own oriental, autocratic aspirations. I’m not sure if he managed to learn anything from his fiasco in Georgia. I’m afraid he only learned that he ought to hide his intentions better; though his leaked telephone conversations wouldn’t necessarily allow us to conclude that either.
It is clear why you liked Mikheil Saakashvili – he was talking your way and was quite effective in it. It is evident why you would want to use his energy, charisma and talent in Ukraine…. May God help you with that! And I was sincere recently when I wished some young people from Ukraine to use the knowledge that Saakashvili and his Guard possess in the field of corruption, but to scrutinize with attention that the tools elaborated against corruption, do not simultaneously construct a machine for “milking” the local businessmen – including honest ones. One can create such a machine very easily, and the team of Mikheil Saakashvili is fairly (and admittedly) skilled in doing this. By the way, tens of thousands of appeals have been made against the former government officials by ordinary Georgians on cases of criminal misappropriation of property.
But can’t you see that this person is also the source of your problems?
Can’t you see that he is rather unwilling to follow your instructions and can change your assignments for his own benefit?
Don’t you see that he, working as the Governor of Odessa, would not give up his dreams of creating chaos in Georgia, and in fact, is already working on a bloodshed scenario?
Mikheil Saakashvili has several times stated openly and clearly that he and his party will come back to Georgia and that it will happen this year – in the autumn of 2015, as a matter of fact!
I have two questions in this regard:
- How can the comeback take place in 2015, if the next parliamentary elections are due only in October of 2016?
- 2Can you also reflect more deeply on why Mikheil Saakashvili wants it to happen specifically this year?
My logical answers are very simple:
1.Mikheil Saakashvili knows very well that he and his party cannot come to power by means of elections! Even according to the IRI and NDI data, if the rating of the Georgian Dream has decreased by almost 2 or 3 times (I am not going to discuss the plausibility of this issue now), the rating of the Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) has not increased at all! What does this mean? It’s easy – people may be disappointed with the Georgian Dream, but the same people are not going to allow that the party – which by means of fraud, media subordination, unjust courts and persecution of political opponents ruled the country for 9 years – is brought back to power. This was a government, which made itself “memorable” by using police and “zonders” to intimidate opposition and public, to extort money from private companies, a government which overcrowded jails and whose trademark skill was to inflict cruel and degrading punishment on inmates.
The thing that you so liked in the Government of Mikheil Saakashvili was a charming, visible upper chunk of the iceberg of systemic intimidation and harassment. What we knew and what you get to discover in 2012 (and afterwards), is the disgusting, latent part of this iceberg. Since the leader of the United National Movement has not been held responsible for this and has not asked to be pardoned, since the party still has not distanced itself from its criminal leaders, it is illusory, on the part of UNM, to even think about returning to power.
2. And why now – in autumn of 2015? Does anything happen after autumn (namely, December), which makes always active Mikheil Saakashvili even more heedless and impulsive?
The answer is evident: in December, Georgia will be finalizing the implementation of the third recommendation package within the framework of EU-Georgia Association Agreement. On the basis of the above-mentioned, the decision on visa liberalization must be made.
For Mikheil Saakashvili and his team, which bases its entire propaganda machine on the supposed pro-Russian character of the “Georgian Dream”, it was a catastrophe to see Georgia signing the EU Association Agreement last year. And today, due to a strange reality, maybe even more than Vladimir Putin, it is Mikheil Saakashvili who does everything in his powers to block the Georgian authorities from attaining the visa liberalization agreement with European Union, as this will finally ruin his plans for “a revolutionary return”.
The proof of this attempt can be found in last week’s bold efforts of some UNM MPs, who were trying hopelessly to include in the draft resolution of the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee provisions that would in fact suspend the association process all together. The Members of the European Parliament could not hide their astonishment when the MPs of the allegedly pro-European parliamentary minority intentionally tried to stop Georgia’s advancement to Europe. Fortunately, the Chairman of the meeting and Georgia’s European partners, who expressed disapproval of UNM’s overall disposition at the meeting and its constant attempts to violate the procedural rules, prevented this provocative plan from succeeding. Isn’t it obvious, though, that the political emigrant in Odessa, who does not seem to ever agree to reconsider his triumphant return plans, is the one causing this mayhem?
And the plan is the following: if Georgia is refused the visa-free regime with EU, UNM will begin organizing nationwide protest rallies under the pretense of halting the pivot of Georgia towards Russia. At the same time, they will try to provoke clashes with the supporters of pro-Russian parties, creating a “revolutionary situation”. Finally, UNM will use its well-amassed barricades and ammunition to bring forth their armed supporters (remember Misha’s advise to his team members to collect Boeviks at Rustavi2 TV) and further destabilize the situation. Hopefully, the evidence for these plans will not be limited to doubtful – and yet quite authentic-sounding – sources, and the investigation on the conspiracy for toppling a state government will not be endless.
And while Mikheil Saakashvili, with his desire to stage a second revolution in Georgia, is not refraining to use Rustavi 2 for his political goals, can your justified appeal to protect media independence and pluralism in Georgia be wrongly perceived by the great majority of Georgian population as not necessarily a defense of Rustavi2, but an attempt to enable the adventurous plans of Mikheil Saakashvili and his violent marginal supporters? Can it be perceived as an indirect contribution to the efforts of destabilization in the most democratic country of the region? Don’t you think that being associated with an adventurous hothead such as Mikheil Saakashvili, throws a shadow on your reputation – at least in Georgia? Don’t you understand that in a situation like this, you have to at least stand aside from such efforts and maybe even advise Mr. Saakashvili to sit only in one (Ukrainian) chair and not worry about “taking care” of two countries at the same time? Unfortunately, I heard such a statement – expressed diplomatically, but quite clearly – only from Her Excellency, the Ambassador of Great Britain. In my humble opinion, during the last 50 years, no one caused more damage to the image of the USA, the West and the western values in this country than Mikheil Saakashvili. And he keeps on doing that…. It is very bad, if I see this and you can’t. If you wish him to continue like this, well, so be it…
What have the Georgian authorities done that you do not wish to dissociate yourselves from Misha’s comparisons of the Georgian government to Yanukovich’s dishonorable administration and the current reality of Georgia to Kiev’s Maidan? Don’t you have, in the US Congress or some European Parliaments, a few people that approve of Stalin or Putin’s personalities? Haven’t the members of your governments been put in jail for corruption and the abuse of power? Will not it be strange if we, because of the mentioned reasons, speak about political persecution of your ex-powermen and put the decisions of your courts under suspicion?!
Certainly, the judiciary of Georgia cannot boast of the same reputation as European or US courts, and that is exactly why the incumbent authorities of Georgia have asked you to actively participate in the court proceedings against the former government officials or send your representatives to attend them. You have refused it. And now, after several verdicts on some high-level former officials have been known, we hear your criticism on political retribution that you keep on repeating with the same regularity and intensity as diplomats usually do against the authorities of much less democratic countries!
The things have gotten to a point when the Member of the European Parliament, who kept suspiciously silent when visiting one other country of the region, after arriving in Georgia, vented excessively regarding the supposed political persecutions.
Can’t you see that the writ issued by a judge at 17:00 was delivered to the editorial staff of Rustavi 2 by its lawyers only at 23:30? Can’t you see how poor and artificial the performance of “decisions, made at night” looks – staged, paradoxically, by the same force, which was registering thousands of properties just after midnight and even had its own so-called “night notaries”?!
Our last 25 years are the years of new tests, new hopes and new disappointments. The fact that almost third of Georgian population has emigrated from the country (something we only learned recently, for the former authorities were not at all interested in delving in such issues!) is an evidence that the destiny of the citizens of independent Georgia has not been full of joy and delight. The proof of this is also the occupation and annexation of more than 20% of the Georgian territory. During this period, the population of Georgia, with patience, weary of heavy thoughts, tries to keep optimism that our long-standing hopes of European integration will be finally coming true…
Time passes, authorities change, more and more Georgians go (or are born) abroad… and the door, open to us, is still partially open…The recent elections in Sagarejo district showed that forces that believe that people like me – who look to Europe with 25 years of patience – are mistaken, are gathering rather strong support. Not to see this is a mistake, blaming it on the “Georgian Dream” coalition is foolish! It will be much more appropriate, if you put responsibility on Mikheil Saakashvili and his loyal United National Movement, for they were given so much and still managed to fail. They have exchanged true democratic values for barrels of videotapes and compromising materials… it will be much more accurate to blame the strange process of co-habitation, rather than “restoration of justice”, for what has happened – As a matter of fact, the low ratings of the Georgian Dream today, can be well explained by the delay in restoring justice.
Restoration of justice was not going to happen under old prosecutors and judges or Kublashvili’s Supreme Court. The fact that the process was called co-habitation makes many citizens think that the delay was the result of the request by the West and not due to objective reasons… By the way – “delayed justice” is often stated as the main argument why the “Patriotic Alliance” and other (loyal-to-Russia) opposition forces are gaining weight. To strengthen their stance, they will most likely use your criticism of the current government to their advantage, while at the same time dwelling on the grievances of a considerable part of the Georgian population, who view the western supporters of Saakashvili in disdain.
You might not agree with me, but Saakashvili and Bokeria know perfectly well that they do not stand any chance, not only to come back to power, but even to remain as the main political opposition for the upcoming elections. The relatively “cleaner” part of the UNM wasted its chance to distance itself from its criminal leadership, and become a much smaller party, or set up a different kind of a coalition – let us see what will become of “Girchi” (new political force of four ex-UNM members).
As to the formation of new political center around the President, I’d be pleased to see the creation of a new, serious democratic entity, but very little time is left until the 2016 elections. Despite of certain empathy, I think that Free Democrats do not possess sufficient organizational resources, taking into account that their regional organizations are losing structure. As for the individual experts and human rights defenders – them gathering together around Margvelashvili does not automatically imply a new party; their unity will have to be thoroughly tested by contest of interests and ambitions… At the same time, such democratic newborn force might certainly have better chance for political maturity in 2020, than UNM – with its hardly realistic political survival.
If you wish the processes to go on, as they were until now, then change nothing… Continue “politically correct” and beautiful conversations, but don’t be surprised of some regrettable outcomes in the end. The result is always what we deserve – due to our incorrect calculations, due to being caught in other’s trap, due to our tendency to believe what we want to believe…
First 1.5 months of United National Movement in power – were not those detainments politically motivated?Posted: 2012/12/21
First 1.5 months of United National Movement in power – were not those detainments politically motivated?
by George Udzilauri on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:06am ·
United National Movement (UNM) and its all time notorious leader – President Saakashvili rings a worldwide alarm – claiming that Georgian Dream and their new government uses prosecution and imprisonment against UNM as methods of political revenge
Georgian Dream government has been in confirmed by the Parliament on October 25th – so they are about 1.5 month in government
Shall we remember what was UNM’s first 1.5 months in power?
Jan 5 – Mikhail Saakashvili wins presidential elections
January 6 (note: Saakashvili is not yet President de jure – he was inaugurated on Jan 20th) – Saakashvili says President Shevardnadze’s family’s property should be investigated (I never promised him what he has acquired illegally, I only promised him physical security – said angry Saakashvili)
Jan 8 – Prosecution announces search on Levan Mamaladze, influential MP of Citizens’ Union ex-ruling party and Governor of Shida Kartli. Tbilisi prosecutor Nodar Grigalashvili said on press conference (where the hell presumption of innocence??): Levan Mamaladze is not an ordinary criminal. He used all his political activities against State interests and illegally acquired amazing wealth. Additionally he racketed one foreigner on 35,000 USD.
In phone conversation Levan Mamaladze said to Rustavi2 – “new government carries out political oppression against me.”
January 12 – Businessman and head of Georgian Football Association Merab Zhordania has been detained. in 1 week he paid bail 742,000 GEL and was released
Jan 16, – Former Head of Georgian railways and one of top official of CU have been detained.
I will not step back while trying to establish Rule of Law – said Saakashvili, he added that anybody who is currently abroad should be detained and brought to justice!
“This is political repression and I will prove my innocence in the court – said Akaki Chkhaidze, but apparently he preferred later to pay the official ransom (rumors said – 10 million USD) and was released without any announcement in media.
Jan 17 – Ex-Minister of Energy – David Mirtskhulava was detained.
spent 8 years in prison, has been released only after victory of Georgian Dream – never admitted charges and never agreed to pay bail.
Jan 22 – Prosectioin announced charges against and search of PostBank President – Sergo Iakobidze
Jan 29 – President announced initiative on easing detention procedures for top ranked officials
Jan 29 – Council of Europe expressed concern over insufficient political pluralism in Georgia
Feb 4 – Transport Minister Merab Adeishvili was detained
Feb 9 – Several top ranked police officials were summoned at prosecution
Feb 10 – Opposition has expressed concern over liberty of expression
Feb 19 – Iberia TV independent company office was searched and owner accused in smuggling goods over custom
None of those accused admitted charges they all called their detention politically motivated…
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…
To: Editorial Board of Washington Post,
cc: Editorial Board of Economist
You have expressed some level of surprise, concern, disapproval or alarm due to detention of former government members in Georgia. Some of yours have seen the similarity between those detentions and of imprisonment of ex-PM of Ukraine – Yulia Timoshchenko. You have fear that Georgian prosecution’s actions may have been politically motivated.
You now see the photo of passport which belongs to somebody named “Levan Maisuradze”, but has a photo of ex-PM Ivane (Vano) Merabishvili.
As President Saakashvili and Vano Merabishvili have travelled to Yerevan November 30 afternoon to participate in EPP party Conference, President’s protocol serviceman has given this very passport to Passport Control officers at Tbilisi International Airport. I have reasonable doubts, that this (and similar) fake passport(s) is used by Vano Merabishvili to manage his secret assets abroad and/or to carry out secret meetings, but he has given it by mistake to the Passport Control officials, which registered an attempt to use fake document for border crossing.
Georgian MIA decided not to hinder President Saakashvili’s visit to Yerevan and Mr. Merabishvili was given chance to present his “real” passport – with his name. Upon what he has been registered and left to Armenia.
When the delegation returned from Yerevan, Vano Merabishvili has left the airport along with President Saakashvili, avoiding answering MIA officials’ questions. MIA did not try to stop President’s escort avoiding political scandal.
Vano Merabishvili was requested to visit Chief Prosecutor’s office next day. He did appear at requested time, but refused his questioning to be recorded and as MIA officials later stated, completely refused to collaborate with the investigation, by not answering questions and calling obvious facts a provocation.
Now, I have a question to you – would you consider this fact enough ground for ex-PM to be interrogated? Or you suggest it is absolutely normal that ex-PM and ex- Minister of Interiors travelling by fake passport? Would you call a criminal investigation against Mr. Ivanishvili “politically motivated”?
Solomon Ternaleli, a blogger
საქართველოს პრეზიდენტის მიხეილ სააკაშვილის მთავრობა, დიდი ხნის განმავლობაში ამერიკელი კონსერვატორების ფავორიტი ფერადი რევოლუციების ჩემპიონობის მიზეზით, ამჟამად ცეცხლის ქვეშ არის მოქცეული საკუთარი შიდა ოპოზიციური მოძრაობის სავარაუდო ჩახშობის გამო. იმ მოძრაობისა, რომელსაც სათავეში უდგას მილიარდერი ბიზნესმენი.
სააკაშვილი შერაცხულ იქნა რეფორმატორად მას შემდეგ, რაც ვარდების რევოლუციის შედეგად საქართველოს პრეზიდენტი გახდა 2004 წელს, და მამაცურად დაუპირისპირდა რეგიონში რუსეთის ჰეგემონიას. მაგრამ მან ასევე აჩვენა საკუთარი შესაძლებლობების გადაჭარბებითი შეფასების მცდარი მაგალითი, როდესაც გადადგა უგუნური სამხედრო ნაბიჯები, რითაც რუსეთს საბაბი მისცა, რომ 2008 წელს საქართველოში შემოჭრილიყო. ახლა კრიტიკოსები ბრალად უყენებენ სააკაშვილს, რომ მისი მთავრობა ზედმეტი აღტყინებით იბრძვის, როცა უკვე შიდა არენაზე პოლიტიკურ ოპონენტებს უპირისპირდება.
სააკაშვილის კონკურენტია მდიდარი ბიზნესმენი ბიძინა ივანიშვილი, რომელმაც თავისი სიმდიდრე რუსეთში დააგროვა, ხოლო სამშობლოში დაბრუნების შემდეგ შექმნა ოპოზიციური პოლიტიკური პარტია „ქართული ოცნება“. ივანიშვილის მომხრეები აცხადებენ ხელისუფლების მიერ რეპრესიული ნაბიჯების მთელი სერიის შესახებ, მათ შორის კომპიუტერული კიბერშეტევის შესახებ, რომელაც მოიცვა არა მარტო „ქართული ოცნების“ ადგილობრივი აქტივისტები, არამედ ამერიკელი იურისტები, ლობისტები და უსაფრთხოების მრჩეველები, რომლებიც „ქართული ოცნებისათვის“ მუშაობენ.
კიბერშეტევის შესახებ აშშ სახელმწიფო დეპარტამენტის ოფიციალური პირები საქმის კურსში ჩააყენა 2012 წ. 7 სექტემბერს თედო ჯაფარიძემ, საქართველოს ყოფილმა ელჩმა ვაშინგტონში და ოპოზიციური პარტიის წარმომადგენელი გუნდის სხვა წევრებმა. ჯაფარიძემ ბრალი დასდო საქართველოს ხელისუფლებას, რომელმაც „საარჩევნო კამპანია გადააქცია ომად ‘სახელმწიფოსა’და ‘სახელმწიფოს მტრებს’ შორის“.
ქართულ პოლიტიკურ ბრძოლას საკმაოდ ახსოვს ბინძური ხრიკებში ბრალდებები ორივე მხარის მხრიდან, მაგრამ კიბერშეტევის გამოყენებამ ეს ბრძოლა ახალ, გაცილებით მაღალ [კიბერტერორიზმის!] საფეხურზე აიყვანა. ივანიშვილის მომხრეების მიხედვით, სპეციალისტებმა და გამომძიებლებმა იპოვეს 66 ტიპის ვირუსი და სპამი ივანიშვილის, მისი ოჯახის წევრებისა და მრჩეველთა მიერ გამოყენებულ 5 კომპიუტერში. აქედან კი ვირუსები მოდებული იყო დაახლოებით 50 სხვა კომპიუტერზე.
ვირუსული პროგრამები საკმაოდ ჭკვიანურად იყო მოფიქრებული: მათ შეეძლოთ ჩაერთოთ კომპიუტერის კამერა და მიკროფონები, და მოეხდინათ ეკრანიდან „სკრინშოტების“ ჩაწერა ყოველ 10 წამში, რაც საშუალებას იძლეოდა ჩაწერილიყო მნიშვნელოვანი გასაღებები და კოდური სიტყვები, განუცხადეს სახელმწიფო დეპარტამენტს. მაგალითად, ერთი ასეთი „ეკრანის ჩაჭერა“, რაც მე ვნახე, აფიქსირებდა ივანიშვილის საბანკო ინვოისს „ნეშენალ სტრატეგიზ“ კომპანიისადმი, რომელიც ვაშინგტონში არსებული უსაფრთხოების მრჩეველთა ფირმაა. მეორე იყო ივანიშვილის მიმართ ვაშინგტონშივე არსებული კომპანია „პატტონ ბოგზის“ ადვოკატის მესიჯი. ეს ფირმა ივანიშვილის ლობისტური საქმიანობის წარმართველი კომპანიაა.
კიბერშეტევა აშკარად გასცდა თავიდან დაინფიცირებულ ინდივიდუალურ კომპიუტერებს: ჯაფარიძის გუნდმა განაცხადა, რომ გამომძიებლებმა აღმოაჩინეს მოწყობილობები, რომლებსაც შეუძლიათ მონაცემების დაფიქსირება და გადაცემა, ასევე ვირუსების გავრცელება, და ეს მოწყობილობები იყო დაინსტალირებული რამდენიმე ქართულ ინტერნეტ-პროვაიდერის აპარატურაში. როგორც ქართულმა ოპოზიციურმა მოძრაობამ განაცხადა, ასეთი მაღალი დონის მოწყობილობის და მათი ასეთ წერტილებში გამოყენება იმის მტკიცებულებაა, რომ სწორედ „სახელმწიფო უშიშროების და დაზვერვის სამსახურები ახორციელებდნენ პოლიტიკური ოპოზიციის თვალთვალის ოპერაციას“, ნათქვამია შეხვედრის ამსახველ დოკუმენტში.
ეს ახალი დოკუმენტები კიდევ უფრო ამძიმებს მომდევნო თვეში საპარლამენტო არჩევნების შესახებ ურთიერთბრალდებების ისედაც საკმაოდ სქელ საქაღალდეს. აგვისტოში ევროპის საბჭომ გააკეთა განცხადება, რომლითაც გააკრიტიკა მთავრობის მიერ საარჩევნო პროცესისთვის შეგროვილი შემოწირულობების ჩამორთმევის კამპანია, როგორც “იარაღი, რათა გაანადგუროს დემოკრატიული ოპოზიცია, და რომლის ძირითადი სამიზნე „ქართული ოცნების“ მხარდამჭერებია.” და თომას მელიამ, სახელმწიფო მდივნის თანაშემწის მოადგილემ ადამიანის უფლებათა საკითხებში, ასევე აღნიშნა გასულ კვირას “ბოლო თვეებში სხვადასხვა ტიპის მრავალი ხარვეზი”, თუმცა განაცხადა, რომ შეერთებული შტატებს ჯერ კიდევ მიაჩნია, რომ „საქართველოში კონკურენტული კამპანია გრძელდება“.
გამოქვეყნდა: 20 სექტემბერი, 2012 – The Washington Post
No Lie Can Live Forever!
For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. (Mark 4:22)
DEMOCRACY – NOT AS MUCH “WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?”, BUT – “WHERE WOULD YOU GO?”
Many outstanding champions of democracy lived and struggled in dictatorships – Aug San Suu Kyi (Cambodia), Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (born and risen in South Africa), Vaclav Havel (Czechoslovakia), Nelson Mandela (South Africa)… Many brave and exemplary heroes of democracy are in countries like Iran, Egypt, China, etc. One can even say that it is easier to become an outstanding democrat whilst living outside established democracy, but trying to transforming country and society to be democratic. and Martin Luther King is another vivid example of that conclusion drawn.
On the other hand democratic country citizenship doesn’t ultimately guarantee a person being a democrat. Quite some tyrants and maniacs including Hitler and Anders Breivik have not been products of dictatorships or rogue states. And countries with established market economy sometimes produce the greatest swindlers, like Leeson, Medoff, Eberds or Kerviel…
What I am up to?
For 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, it may become the crucial issue how the election results will be legitimized. And Georgian society, likewise many other ex-USSR states is very dependent on what the West would say. What would US president Say, What would International organizations – UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and EU would say? What observatory missions, e.g. ODIHR, IRI, NDI, Transparency International would say, will they show a green card or a red one…
And that, – with a level of democratic principles and institutions and poor record of previous elections carried out in Georgia, – is understandable. Moreover, I would be strongly opposed to idea, that western watchdog eye from Georgia to be removed too soon…
But here comes the problem – who represents those institutions in Georgia? Who is the one which puts the stamp on certain reports and conclusions and how much an individual with possible suspicious ethical standards can influence a decision-making and judgment of the world-famous and respectful institution, or –even of the State he/she may represent.
I am going to discuss the case of two individuals – both US citizens, which could play a significant or even paramount role in forthcoming Georgian elections results acceptance. I will try to share my concerns with you, fellow Americans, why I think that something is wrong with the way these guys may drive a show in Georgia.
But first let go back a little and try to understand why persons like local office heads in Tbilisi might be crucial for 2012 elections legitimization.
CASES OF GAMSAKHURDIA AND “SHEVY”
First President of Georgia – Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was a well known dissident. That has served a bad job to him! After his sensational victory in 1990 elections, he expected a warm hug from western allies – US, UK and even NATO… But President Bush was then overwhelmed by nurturing Gorbatchov’s fading USSR, so Gamsakhurdia has got a diplomatic advice with bitter realpolitics – not to announce Independence. Georgian President had quite temper and coldly rejected that diplomatic suggestion. In response to non-delicate remarks from dissident-became-President George Bush senior said Gamsakhurdia was “marching against the mainstream”. That was a “labeling alarm”, as afterwards most EU countries hesitated to recognize Georgia as independent state (It was only Romania and very lately, Ukraine which did recognize Georgia during Gamsakhurdia’s ruling). Domestically Gamsakhurdia acted also as unpredictable and very inflexible politician and soon many of his former supporters left him, and some of the most powerful – Prime-Minister and Minister of Defense – started military coup. With obvious Russian interest behind the “putchists” and without any serious support from western states, Gamsakhurdia’s government soon failed, and even now many of his supporters, called Zviadists, blame US administration nearly equally to Russian leadership in that dramatic re-start of Georgian statehood. For quite big part of Georgian society it was indeed America’s non-acceptance which didn’t give Gamsakhurdia’s government chance to survive.
Eduard Shevardnadze, or “Shevy”, as he was known to Americans since being foreign minister of Soviet Union, was indeed a favorable leader of Georgia for US administrations. He had close ties with many “Grands” of US politics, like Reagan, Bush, Kissinger, Shultz, Baker… It was Shevy’s political experience, and his stance for democracy during Gorbatchov époque, his role in Germany’s reunification, in cease of Iron Curtain, and especially – a prediction of “GKChP putch”, which made Shevardnadze, despite of his Communist past and pure English skills, favorite of US political circles, either republican or democratic…
Starting after 1995, and especially since 1999, Shevy created system which one could call “democratic cleptocracy”. The system was totally corrupted, but somehow there was no monopoly on corruption – “Live and let others to live!”. At the same time, freedom of media and of opinion expression was acceptable. But while allowing some freedoms, Shevy developed a shrewd system of elections falsification (BTW, “wizards” of those falsifications Mikhail Machavariani and Khatuna Gogorishvili now faithfully serve Mikhail Saakashvili). In fact the only fair elections Georgia had been yet during communists – in 1990. West watched all those falsifications with eyes closed, or – half-closed. Shevy was good – understandable, pragmatic, enough democratic, NATO-oriented, oil/gas routes-providing, protecting western property and citizens, and since 1999 – Georgian army engaged in Train and Equip and other US-led military cooperation programs… There was one growing concern though – Georgian economy was stagnating due to nepotism and corruption, and there was lack of institutional reforms and of tax collection, with prominent deterioration of social services.
Situation has changed in 2003, a group of Young Reformers in the ruling party departed from Shevardnadze and have sent a signal to the West – “We will change this country! Defeat corruption, establish fully democratic state with developed institutions and flourishing market economy.” As the US administration then was promoting an idea of “color revolutions”, that group of youngsters got substantial support with trainings, money and political standby. US educated polyglot lawyer, with perfect knowledge of US system, PR-technologies and great charisma – Misha Saakashvili was one of them. The main message of Young Reformers: “If you won’t help us to come to power, Shevy will leave the country to Pro-Russian mini-Tsar of Adjara – Aslan Abashidze!”. The threat was real – getting older, Shevardnadze in fact was leaning more and more to Abashidze, which had Asian-type dictatorship established in Adjara.
With growing success of non-violent youth protest organization “Kmara” (“Enough” – copied Yugoslavian “Otpor”) and with incredible popular countrywide oppositionary TV-channel Rustavi2, Shevy’s government has lost a ground surprisingly easily. It became obvious later, that not only Americans, but also Russians were backing Georgian opposition. There have been several reasons for that, not only hate against Shevy, which Russian generals considered a main architect of Warsaw Pact crashing, but also ties of Temur Alasania, Saakashvili’s uncle and KGB officer, and may be even information about unstable personality of Saakashvili – which started to payback since 2006, when UNM hotheads decided they may not only cheat Russia, but also – defeat Russia!..
Yet Shevy was too confident. He called US President and Vice-President “friends”. But he’s got a bitter pill, when his friend James Baker came before election in 2003 and laid out so called Baker’s formula of fair elections, which was nothing less but a decent way to smooth defeat, as Shevy knew his real chances quite well. Surprisingly he didn’t hear alarm bell, miscalculated his power and ignored US signals by even daring not to pickup phones when US President or vice president have called.
The result was dreadful for him.
Western observers’ missions called elections of November 2, 2003 “not corresponding to standards for democratic and transparent elections” (in fact they were no worse than previous one, which was not judged so strongly!). People came to streets (BTW – only around 30,000, whilst afterwards against Saakashvili opposition often collected over 100,000 and even – 200,000 protesters!) and Shevardnadze has discovered that nearly nobody was loyal to him. At least then he took the wise decision and resigned.
That was it!
Georgian society has drawn a conclusion that second time the fate of Georgian president was decided in Washington and if western observers would have accepted the elections same way they have done many times before, there had been no trigger factor to pull Rose revolution.
RISE AND FALL OF “BEACON OF DEMOCRACY”
After that it was presumed that seeds of democracy in Georgia would rise fast and without any problem- that free media, flourishing civil sector, independent justice system, market-based competitive economy, rule of law (and not of rulers!) and check-and-balance of ruling powers (administrative, legal and justice) would be impressively implemented and that would lead to election system perfection and eventually removal of watchdog institutions. In fact, USAID has even decided to decrease funding for democracy support programs in Georgia – as the enthusiasm that Georgia now was in hands of natural-born-democrats, nearly indistinguishable from Franklin, Jefferson or Washington, has been truly overwhelming.
The things have turned out to disastrous miscalculation and I am afraid US politicians still do not want to understand how much they have been cheated by so called Young Democrats.
Starting in just 3 months from inauguration, and especially since 2005, (after yet non-investigated and strange death of Zurab Zhvania, who was indeed a pillar of democracy among young democrats), Saakashvili and government started to reveal clear tendency of neobolshevism, trying to ignore more and more any idea which was not born in their heads. More and more former allies have left Misha (first – Georgian Republican party – Usupashvili, Khidasheli, Berdzenishvili brothers, Khaindrava, Khmaladze). In 2004 only strong resistance of Zurab Zhvania and of US administration has prevented a new war in South Ossetia. Misha announced zero tolerance against crimes and Vano Merabishvili has given order not to shake and terminate at spot any dangerous criminal – that led over 100 young people dead in streets, many of those cases are at Strasbourg Court on Human Rights today. Society got especially angry with case of Sandro Girgvliani – young banker who was taken at night to cemetery by 4 police officers, tortured and killed and left body there, presumably by order of MIA minister’s wife or even by Merabishvili himself. That started first mass protests again Saakashvili in 2006.
In 2007 political crisis demanding snap Parliamentary elections has swirled Saakashvili regimen. Saakashvili has used well both inexperience of Georgian opposition and also inability of international society to differentiate between democrat and plutocrat, and modeled so called Russian plot. He succeeded not only beat and humiliate Georgian society at street, but also shut down the last independent TV Channel – Imedi TV – SWAT-storming it on totally falsified reason! After brilliant chess-sacrifice he had resigned and announced snap presidential elections. Opposition had very limited time to regroup to Presidential elections and carry out substantial campaign. Saakashvili has succeeded in assuring US administration that opposition was pro-Russian. US President George W. Bush has called Saakashvili at noon of Election Day (obviously it was late night in Washington, DC) and congratulated him with success! The same time, before vote counting was even started, OSCE observers’ mission head, US Senator Alcee Hastings has called Georgian elections a Triumph of Democracy! – There can be no doubts that was undeserved advanced credit to something appreciated with pleasure, before it really happened.
It is fact that in both Presidential (Jan 5th) and Parliamentary (May 21st) 2008 elections Saakashvili and his UNM has won thanks to mass violations of voting, use of false IDs, multiple voting and carousels, voters intimidation both by police and illegal paramilitaries (Zondercomandos), intimidation of prisonners’ families (demanding every f them bringing dozens of guaranteed votes!) and incredible personal manipulations and falsifications of then head of Central Election Commission – Levan Tarkhnishvili (which before and since then was in sociological “research” and now is #37 on Saakashvili’s UNM list for Parliamentary elections 2012). However, along with all these illegal actions, it was univocal support and acceptance of the West which kept Saakashvili at power. Imagine that – OSCE final report on Presidential elections (regretfully published only after 2 months from Saakashvili’s “winning”) stated that counting at 19% of precincts can be regarded as “bad or very bad”! 19%! And it was election when margin of only 3% has saved Saakashvili from 2nd runoff!
19% vs. 3%!
Why West has done that?
Still the image of Columbia-graduated western educated lawyer, who knows 5 languages, is smart, talks “democratic” – has made US and EU leaders thinking that he was “their S.O.B”! West told Georgian society which arranged unprecedented march of nearly 250,000 protesters in freezing day of January 20, 2008 – “Yea, guys you may dislike him, but we like him – he’s the one you need!”
Results were dreadful for Georgia and shame for West:
Result #1) in nearly 4 months from Presidential elections and 2 months from Parliamentary elections there are OSCE observer mission final reports, where 1st paragraph states that elections in principle have corresponded norms and standards of democratic elections, but nearly every each page afterwards rules out that conclusion and makes a reader to ask “what the hell?” It is clear feeling the 1st page (written in few hours from elections) and other pages (after thoughtful analysis of all facts and manipulations) do not match at all each other.
Result #2) Saakashvili has got another 4-year term and instead of previous simple majority now got constitutional majority in the Parliament which made him Constitutional tailor by his own!
Result #3) Saakashvili, illusioned by his triumph, has “misunderstood” signals from US administration, jumped in the tramp arranged by Putin in South Ossetia and instead of realization of his hot plans of parade in Tskhinvali has engaged in disastrous 5-day war with Russia, which cost him more territories lost, more refugees, Russian invasion, Russian military bases in 40 km from Tbilisi and recognition of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia de Jure by Russia.
As Lincoln Mitchell has stated, if there had been pro-Russian president of Georgia, he couldn’t have done more damage to Georgian and US interests, than what “western-oriented democrat”Misha Saakashvili has done.
So, I think West, which has solemnly watched all manipulations and fraud at 2008 elections is responsible at least partially for 2008 war, which was result of enormous cart-blanche given to Misha by Western leaders.
And that decision – making 2008 elections looked nice, has not been done at level of IRI, NDI and other observers missions. Not at level of Ambassadors in Tbilisi. Decision-making that time was done at much higher level – at level of Presidents and Prime-ministers…
After 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict the situation has changed.
Now West doesn’t call Saakashvili a Beacon of Democracy. Since 2008 practically the only justification for Saakashvili’s regimen to West is constantly growing number of Georgian soldiers sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. Misha has learnt a lesson, he doesn’t engage with provocations with Russia, only moderately verbally assaulting Russian leadership, and using soft methods of election falsification. He was Persona non grata for nearly a year, but then renewed his official visits. However, Saakashvili will never be able to return to world political elite. And his support level for forthcoming electoral fraud came down from Presidential and PM levels first to Ministers level and then probably to level of local office heads of influential NGOs – like IRI and NDI.
However, Saakashvili is talented to adjust his Modus Vivendi to the crisis. Quite early, since 2006-07 he started to establish strong personal ties with local foreigners – heads of missions and also tried to engage in his government local staff of foreign organizations which have good ties with their supervisors and HQ heads down there in Washington or EU capitals. Here is the short list of NGO staff Saakashvili made his ministers and associates: Dmitri Shashkin (IRI), Kakha Lomaia (Eurasia Foundation, Soros Foundation), David Darchiashvili (Soros Foundation), Giga Bokeria (Liberty Institute), Temur Iakobashvili (Soros Foundation), Eka Tkeshelashvili (IRIS-Georgia), Bacho Akhalaia (Liberty Institute, HR Defender’s office), Zurab Tchiaberashvili (ISFED), Gia Kavtaradze (USAID), Givi Targamadze (Liberty Institute), George Papuashvili (Soros Foundation), Gia Nodia (Caucasian Institute)…
Such a “brain attraction”campaign had two main purposes: a) to enrich the government by the faces which would be very familiar for western diplomats and media, and b) not to leave many strong experts outside government’s feed and diminishing number of possible independent criticizing voices.
But still it was number of foreigner experts which created an Avant-garde of Misha’s “iron defense” circle since 2007. The group of foreign citizens paid legally or under the table by Misha which would guarantee nice word to State Department or a special meeting with Congress leaders and media. Several of such figures: Daniel Cunin, Raphael Gluksman (married to Misha’s current Deputy Minister of Interiors Eka Zguladze), Randy Scheunemann, Mathew Bryza (presented incredibly generous wedding gifts when big delegation of Georgian officials attended his marriage with Zeyno Baran at Turkish island in 2007), Mark Mullen (NDI, and then TI), Luis Navarro (NDI)… The latter two are persons which apparently were given an important task by Saakashvili ahead of 2012 elections…
MARK MULLEN – “ANATOMY”
Misha Saakashvili at opening of Geocapital Office in Kutiasi. 30% of shares belong to Mark Mullen (first from left)
Dismissal of Nina Khatiskatsi
Programs Director of Transparency International Georgia, Nina Khatiskatsi, was dismissed from her post on July 23, 2012. This has caused speculation in the media that her dismissal was politically motivated, since Khatiskatsi has been known to make critical statements about the government’s actions. These speculations were flatly denied by TI’s leadership.
Khatiskatsi was dismissed by the head of the Board (Mark Mullen) and the Executive Director of the NGO, Eka Gigauri.
Nina Khatiskatsi told The Messenger she had never had any kind of confrontation with the leadership of the organization. “Of course, there have been issues for which I had my personal views that differed from other’s attitudes,” she said. “However, we have always managed to agree in the end. My dismissal was carried out swiftly without any preconditions. There was such in the organization when one of the employees was dismissed and exactly the same reason was named as it was mentioned in my case. However, that person was warned beforehand about it and the process was prolonged for about one month. In my case, I was dismissed without any hints about it,” Khatiskatsi stated, and excluded political motivation as the cause of her dismissal. “However, I consider that my dismissal two-months before the elections will not positively reflect on the organization,” Khatiskatsi said.
Khatiskatsi says she plans to meet with the TI board in the coming week, when “an influential representative of the board” not currently in Georgia returns. (that person was Mark Mullen)
TI’s official position is that Khatiskatsi’s dismissal was related to an “inner organizational disagreement,” stating that “…our reports have always been based on complex research in which lots of analysts and researchers have been involved. It has never expressed a single person’s views,” Transparency International Georgia underscored that speculations through the media concerning the political motivation on Khatiskatsi’s dismissal creates danger for the organization’s image. “We are worried concerning the statements and we have decided to make a broader statement concerning the inner process,” TI’s statement reads.
TI Executive Director Eka Gigauri, told The Messenger that Khatiskatsi’s dismissal was related with inner management issues and refrained from delivering details what they were related to. Gigauri however emphasized that Khatiskatsi was informed of some incompatibility between her and the organization’s leadership. “We have talked on the issue, better earlier until making decision, Gigauri state; “thus dismissal should not have come as a surprise to Khatiskatsi.”
However, in two weeks Nina revealed the truth and it became obvious, that Eka Gigauri was only an instrument for IT Board Chairman Mark Mullen, who was decision-maker in Khatiskatsi dismissal and who took control of the case himself.
It was then that investigative journalist Natia Mikiashvili (author of Investigative journalist series – Anatomy at Maestro TV during 2010-2011 and now – at TV9) made one of the program of Anatomy about Mark Mullen.
This video has been translated on English for foreign audience. ()
Misha Saakashvili has some friends. Some of the friends are international. Few of them live in Georgia longer than decade, few of them serve international NGO as Board Chairman over a decade. Mark does not only these – he has Georgian wife and stepson, and he started being a businessman in Georgia. He now runs several million worth business, which is wholeheartedly supported and advertised by President Saakashvili. Mark apparently has some other interests in multimillion businesses which are owned by Mikhail Saakashvili’s inner circles and their relatives. Besides, US citizen has been long time CEO for Iranian company.
For March 5, 2012 Mark owned 25% shares in Geocapital microfinance organization which plans to invest 5 million USD before December, 2012. Geocapital has recently opened an office in Kutaisi, which was attended by Misha Saakashvili. Saakashvili has praised GeoCapital as step to tomorrow. Other shareholders with almost equally 25%-25% were US citizen Ralf Barleson, his friend Irma Svanadze and Caucasus Investment Ltd (also co-owned by Barleson and I. Svanadze since 2011). In two months Mark’s share increased to 30% and of others – decreased to 23%-23%. Besides that, Mark owns undisclosed shares of hotel Betsy’s, one of the first foreigner-owned private business in Tbilisi.
Mark Mullen was also Director of Saba Group Ltd. But in 2011 he was replaced by his friend and owner of that Saba Group, Iranian businesswoman Maede Hassan Zadegar Futar.
Mark is also an official partner of construction/development company Wardrop & Alexander, where other partners also include Shalva Akhalkatsi and David Abshilava. Wardrop & Alexander’s portfolio of construction projects for last years has reached $58,786,888. Not bad at all!
It could have been just a profitable company in the west, but Georgian business has its own peculiarity. It only flourishes if there is a governmental “roof”. There are many international organizations reports which state that despite of middle-level corruption eradication, top-level and government-associated elite corruption and business “protection” is very common and even have grown dramatically in Saakashvili’s Georgia.
And such person with good governmental ties in Wardrop and Alexander seems Shalva Akhalkatsi, close friend and long-time business associate of Leo Bokeria, being Managing director of Architectural design and construction company Arc-Studia, which de-facto is run by Leo Bokeria (owns 20% of shares). And Leo Bokeria “happened to be” father of Giga Bokeria, one of the powerful leaders of Saakashvili’s United National Movement and the person, who despite of any of his positions (MP, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of National Security Council) always has been among the top-5 persons which Saakashvili was consulting on most of the important issues, including reforms, change of constitution, oppression of street protests or war with Russia in 2008. Interestingly Giga Bokeria and Mark Mullen have been long-time Board members of Transparency International Georgia, whilst Mark shares business interests with the closest friend of Giga Bokeria’s father – Shalva Akhalkatsi. Interestingly – another shareholder of ArcStudio – David Abshilava (owns 40% of Arc-Studio) is also partner of Wardrop and Alexander, likewise Mark Mullen.
But how Mark came to Georgia and what was he doing during Rose revolution, when he was co-director of another international NGO – National Democratic Institute (NDI)?
The Anatomy shows long citation from correspondence between Mark Mullen (MM) and Nino Burjanadze (NB), who was then Chair of the Parliament and was leaning to Misha Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania. I his letters Mark gives lessons what to speak and how to act to Nino Burjanadze. (11:18). He gives her advice to become a legitimate leader of the opposition (12:12), at the same time gently suggesting that she doesn’t need to attend meetings (thus keeping her ties with opposition hidden for a while). Then Mark is enchanted by idea of NB to carry out meeting of famous Georgians as sort of representative organ which would influence Shevardnadze’s government. MM says to NB – we can help you to write a petition, but you don’t need to sign it (13:00).
Then we go back to present time. Until recently society didn’t know that MM’s stepson, US citizen Nick Amirejibi was a US-trained Special Op instructor for SWAT-operations training and he came back to Georgia for Shavnabada Special forces training and worked at MIA. (19:02). Mark’s son is believed to be in good relations with Bacho Akhalaia (formerly minister of detentions and then – of Defense, until recently – Minister of Interiors) and with Vano Merabishvili (MM is in short foot with Merabishvili himself too). MM’s wife – Rusiko Amirejibi has been heartfelt supporter of Misha Saakashvili and of Vano Merabishvili, but came out with outcry of dissatisfaction at Facebook, when Akhalaia was appointed as MIA Minister and his brother became Deputy Defense Minister.
What was Mark’s role at Transparency International? He is a Board Chairman for this organization which does enormously important work in the country – mainly in monitoring political process, particularly – election process, legal assistance, civil society development, media independence, etc. MM has been NDI Board Chair over 10 years for now. As Nina Khatislkatsi recalls, at least in last years MM was rarely coming to TI office, being mainly seen as a guest, and doesn’t interfering in organization’s activities.
However, that has changed recently. MM has suddenly decided to fire Nina Khatiskhatsi and besides he has decided to fire her without any reasonable ground. And that is happening just 2 months before ahead elections, when dismissing crucial staff member, head of exactly electoral and legal assistance programs, author of almost all reports in these fields for many years – could have been a devastating step, dramatically hindering organization’s capacity to continue its observing activities for quasi-important 2012 October elections.
In the secret audio recording which Nina has made when she had a “dismissal” talk with MM, it is obvious (22:10 – 22:50) that Mark heavily blackmails Nina. Instead of making clear to her why he decided to fire her, he talks absurd “reasons” that he doesn’t want to explain to the world, why she was fired and it would be in her better interest to resign silently. He even talks about his “role” for Nina not being able to get a good job at Open Society Foundation (Soros Foundation) unless he gives a green light to that. He wants to have a deal with Nina – we will tell the “world”, that Nina was tired, she has a little child, she wanted to test herself in other works and she left the office by her own will!
It is unthinkable to think that Head of organization which is called Transparency International talks such a-la-Corleone talks with her subordinate and not only demands her resignation, but warns her not to rise a voice! By this short fragment you can say MM has been rotten the same way as UNM and their leadership have been rotten! And by knowing Mark we can suggest that this is demand which came from UNM leadership – that Nina Khatiskatsi should have been fired!
What is amazing – that if there wouldn’t have been Nina’s secret audio recording, MM would bluntly deny that he had anything to do with that dismissal. Before knowing his talk with Nina was recorded, he does exactly that – he says it is Executive Director’s – Eka Gigauri’s job to decide who to fire and he himself has never talked with Nina Khatiskatsi about resigning! In his interview to TSPress agency Mark said that he gave proposal to Nina, to finish reports and to leave as if she would make it clear that she was leaving, TI would have been unable to pay the wage to her! This is outrageous shift of accents! Mark says he entrusted Eka Gigauri would deal with Nina’s dismissal, as Eka had talk with her several times, but Eka didn’t convince Nina and Mark decided to intervene as he was the one who hired her time ago.
It is strange that Mark’s wife, who is a family member, but not member of TI, has discussed at Facebook page that it was Mark’s decision “to protect Nina’s reputation”. MM has explained it was because they didn’t want to reveal that Nina was often reprimanded for not accomplishing her jobs timely, being often late, etc… Nina says – all these are plain lie. BTW, when Eka Gigauri said Nina was not doing her job well, one could check that in 2012 Nina Khatiskatsi has got salary rise in TI – you don’t give a salary rise to a person who is misdoing here job, right?!
TS Press (Eliso Janashia) interviews with Mark and other coverage of the story (on Georgian)
But after hearing that there is audio evidence of him blackmailing Nina, Mark seemed now very concerned and lost in Anatomy. He admits (27:11) his engagement in Saba Ltd, but denies he has received any financial reimbursement (at the same time he said to newspapers, that US administration was not happy he being Director of company, owned by Iranian). He also admits his friendship with Shalva Akhalkatsi, and that he is consultant of Wardrop and Alexander (which had portfolio of project over 58 million GEL), but says he has no financial interest for this consulting job. At the same time he admits Akhalkatsi’s business partner is Leo Bokeria, father of Giga Bokeria. Mark admits Misha Saakashvili came to opening of GeoCapital’s office in Kutaisi, but he says it has been not a special recognition of his business being supported, but Misha simply loves to go to openings and that “… Misha was at opening, anyway, for rather short time”(!)
at the end of Mark’s Anatomy, Natia Mikiashvili asks Mark Mullen very straightforward question – “We have heard, that after Nina has being fired, Shalva Akhalkatsi’s son, George Akhalkatsi is being now considered to oversee election monitoring program at TI. Is that right?”
MM answers – “George has just joined TI Board…” and then walks away.
To me that answer means – “Yes! Why not…”
Imagine that – young person with good records at Human rights organizations and democratic institutions is sent to Georgia. He here meets young reformers and instructs them how to win the power. They follow instructions, and they become the statesmen. Now they (who formerly hardly ever had over 20$ in their pockets) run the country and become millionaires, some – even billionaires. And the US citizen still has the same below $100,000 income annually. But his “Nuove riche” friends who advise him to engage in the business and he starts doing that. His businesses go well, as everybody knows he is in good relations with ruling party, but … he miscalculates, that as he engages in business, he is then in the domain of his “friends”, and his independence becomes vulnerable. He can be called and asked to make “some favor”… something in exchange of being owner of favorite business in ruling-party-governed business environment, like Georgia is… Something, he can’t deny…
Two things which are not covered in Mark’s Anatomy –
a) before Nina Khatiskatsi’s dismissal Tax police came to MM’s GeoCapital office and made some checks. Apparently that was “you’d better don’t misbehave” signal…
b) former head of Transparency International Georgia – Vakhtang Kobaladze has also left TI after previous elections in 2010 when TI has covered voters’ intimidation and multiple fraud. Vakhtang Kobaladze has left TI after hard talk with Mark Mullen. I suppose, That time MM has succeeded to have silent dismissal…
Mark Mullen became vulnerable by his business interests. He can’t be independent, while having business in Georgia. He can’t be independent being close friend of Merabishvili, Bokeria and Saakashvili. Apparently the UNM plan was to replace Khatiskatsi and instate son of Giga Bokeria’s father’s close friend on election monitoring program. It only succeeded on first 50%…
Mark Mullen and his wife – Rusiko Amirejibi have hurriedly left Georgia after Nina’s audiorecording was available… TI Board had no meeting to discuss Nina Khatiskatsi case and Mark’s role. Other people, not George Akhalkatsi have become new directors of the programs managed by Nina…
Rusiko Amirejibi has erased all her posts on Facebook during 2012 January-August period. She recently told her close friend, she will return a week before election to Tbilisi, in “quite new role” – she said.
And finally one more recent news: on September 23rd Nina Khatiskatsi’s husband, Georgian Dream staff member Kakha Jorjoliani has been arrested in Mestia on invented charges of Electoral commission member. Kakha was sentenced to 40 days imprisonment for “offending electoral commission member”. In 2 days it became obvious this person had nothing to do with electoral commission, he apparently is a law-enforceemnt body officer – it was another political arrest…
DESPITE OF WRITTEN ABOVE, I HAVE NO DOUBTS THAT TRANSPARENCY ITNERNATIONAL GEORGIA SO FAR HAS BEEN DOING INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT AND OUTSTANDING JOB – HELPING GEORGIAN SOCIETY AND PEOPLE OF GEORGIA IN ACHIEVING BETTER DEMOCRATIC STANDARDS. MY ONLY CONCERN WAS THAT EVEN IN SUCH WELL-FUNCTIONING INSTITUTION IF SOME SAAKASHVILI-FAVORING “EXPERTS” IMPLANTED, IT WOULD TOTALLY DESTROY THE FAIR JOB AND REPUTATION OF THAT NGO! BUT UNLIKE MARK MULLEN AND RUSIKO AMIREJIBI I THINK THAT POINTING A POSSIBLE PROBLEM IS A PREVENTION RATHER THAN A DAMAGE, AND ORGANIZATION, CALLED TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL SHALL NOT ALLOW HIDDEN ADMINISTRATIVE MANIPULATIONS, LIKE THE ONES USED AGAISNT NINA KHATISKATSI.
LUIS NAVARRO: IN MISHA HE TRUSTS
Why today Luis Navarro – head of NDI office became so important person in Georgian politics?
We have NDI office in Tbilisi for quite a time and society was never really aware who was running that office. In fact, one of the brilliant critics of Saakashvili’s regime today – Professor Lincoln Mitchell was once a head of NDI office. I would say NDI’s reputation stands on dignity of such persons as Mr. Mitchell, while Mr. Navarro is the one who greedily absorbs NDI’s reputation, for making his deeds justified. Professor Mitchell has enough credentials aside of NDI office position, while Luis Navarro, if stripped of that position, as well as assistance to Joe Biden, will probably have not much personal credits left to crow about, I suppose.
Regretfully, there are lots of aspects around Mr. Navarro for inducing me to think that way! However, if NDI-leaded pools will accommodate existing criticism and reveal tendencies to become fair, then I will take back my suspicions and gladly provide my public apologies. But I am afraid this is very naive over-optimism.
The Answer on that query – Why Navarro and NDI-Georgia became critical in today’s Georgia is simple: because this may be the very level on which US would intervene in Georgian elections!
And only we – citizens of Georgia can change that – inducing higher hierarchy of US administration to respect our choice. As philosopher Zaza Shatirishvili has noted in the TV program Subjective Opinion, every country has such NDI office (and its head!), which it deserves! Zaza has joked that it is now good time to draw a line between two Americas: of Luis Navarro and of founding fathers of US democracy… Well, there is substantial portion of truth in that joke…
After IRI office head Dmitri Shashkin has became multi-purpose minister in Saakashvili’s government, it is not surprising that former office member of NDI is now #4 in Saakashvili’s UNM electoral list. This proves how much grateful UNM is to Luis Navarro’s girls and boys!
Having hard time with opposition which is now united and strong (financially as well) as never before, Saakashvili has hoped that US administration would back his party for 2012 elections. He made incredible efforts to send more soldiers (per capita) to Iraq than any NATO member country, he even accepted longtime-objected process of Russia’s approval for joining WTO upon US administration request, accepted that on exchange of his official meeting with Obama! But to his dissatisfaction, that meeting brought not a complete re-crowning to Misha, as President Obama made rather strong emphasis on need of transparent and democratic elections and as a result – formal transfer of power in 2012 and 2013 elections!
This wording – need of transparent and democratic elections and as a result – formal transfer of power in 2012 and 2013 elections – became an outstanding hard-press for Misha, which multiple times have escaped straightforward answer on question what he will do after stepping down from President’s seat in 2013 and whether he will follow Putin’s footsteps becoming a prime minister. These doubts are very reasonable as Saakashvili prepared a good “airfield for soft-landing” – from 2013 Prime Minister becomes a de-facto ruler of Georgia, leaving only representative functions to weakened President. Mikheil Saakashvili has invented yet unthinkable model in the world: PrimeMinisterial kingdom!
But as Misha skillfully avoided to answer the question whether he will pull a Putin or not, above mentioned requirement for transparent and democratic elections and power transfer has been repeatedly told to him – after President Obama – by Hillary Clinton, by Anders Fog Rasmussen, by Herman Van Rompuy, By Jose Manuel Barroso… – Elections 2012 will be seen as test for Democracy in Georgia, recently repeated by Tomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State…
And Misha has no other choice but to rely on lower level approval – he turns to Luis Navarro who is trusted to save Misha Saakashvili’s sinking UNM. Can Navarro do that?
Well, there are other implants to help him in this rather hard task.
Today everybody in Georgia has heard “NDI” and “Navarro”. And nearly everybody knows these names are related with polls – regarding what is concern for society, how much and which ratings Georgian parties have.
But interestingly, it turns out that NDI office in Georgia since its establishment for many years has not requested a single poll at all! Although Navarro is trying to misinform society and often talks about NDI observing many elections in Georgia since 1994, but this is not the same as carrying out or requesting polls during those election years or in between. NDI in Mark Mullen’s period, as well as in Lincoln Mitchell’s period has carried no polls. It was Mr. Navarro, which transformed NDI office to mainly polling-related institution.
Moreover, what is obvious, that NDI worldwide has nearly no analogue to NDI-Georgia, when polls are regarded as their almost top priority. The only exclusion when NDI engaged in polls was Egypt at onset of Arab Spring. And as journalist Eka Beridze was remembering that NDI poll proved to be not very inline with Egypt’s population demands and expectations, as well as ratings of that pool had been more than doubtful. Apparently, that’s why now one can hardly find results of that Egypt’s poll on the net.
But in Georgia, as I said, NDI became so much poll–oriented that for locals it nearly equals Gallup!
However, according to NDI webpage, the main objectives of the organization are rather different from being a poll-requester: NDI and its local partners work to promote openness and accountability in government by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation. The Institute brings together individuals and groups to share ideas, knowledge, experiences and expertise that can be adapted to the needs of individual countries.
What indeed is a face of NDI, and especially in countries of developing economies, these are multiple observer missions to monitor elections, which watchdog electoral environment and electoral regulations and their implementation in practice. That function of NDI so far had no questions raised from society, – particularly NDI’s director Ken Wollack recent visit and his critics and 5 recommendations towards Georgian Government were very relevant and concrete and they excluded any double readings, unlike some of the results Navarro-requested polls.
Regarding poll-carrying function of NDI Georgian office, and nearly a-la-Gallup stance, once can surely argue that it has a lot to do with elections transparency and with researching election environment, but even accepting that argument as partial justification for Mr. Navarro’s terrible love of polls, there is still something to be surprised at.
1) During nearly 2 years since starting poll-business NDI office was giving party ratings in closed envelopes to the particular parties, while they were hidden from society eyes. This suspicious practice has been finally rejected in June 2012 after public outcry. I wonder how such secrecy and transparency can be related. What was reason to nurture such medieval privacy which then was giving good chance to parties (especially – to ruling UNM) to claim higher rate of support?
2) How relevant and justified is that Navarro signs all his poll requests to only one organization- Caucasian Research Resource Center (CRRC), and why this organization keeps its field studies and focus group technology so secret? Is this again Navarro’s interpretation what “transparency” can and should be?
Interestingly, former USA ambassador – John Bass, just before his departure from Georgia has made one interesting disclosure (the very time when dissatisfaction by Navarro’s activity and by secrecy of NDI-requested polls have reched the maximum boiling point and when opposition even has asked a question whether organization with such desire for secrecy of work technology can be at all trusted to carry out such polls damaging public opinion rather than – researching it). Mr. Bass said that NDI sociology polls were not funded by US government! We have then learned it was Swedish International Development Agency – SIDA, which funds the NDI polls.
We (me including) have not paid much attention to that disclosure that time. Apparently – we should have.
Likewise Georgian government which has incredible attraction to reasonable doubts – people are simply kept prisoners for years or fined multimillion fines based solely on those doubts and nothing else, I would also dive in deep seas of reasonable doubts regarding possible scenarios of NDI(DC)-SIDA-NDI(TBS)-CRRC agreements and relationships.
As NDI is a respectable US organizations (no doubt about that, despite of Mr. Navarro’s personal “talents” and “objective stance”), presumably SIDA local (Tbilisi) office may not have direct authority to control the funds given to it by SIDA central office. Or that control over methodology and reporting, over particular RFAs and accomplishments may be at very flexible (= loose) level, mainly – formality, which could have been quite different, if the grantee was a Georgian organization, namely – CRRC.
On the other hand, as for NDI Tbilisi office that project seems to be the result of their local initiative, NDI central office and US government (USAID), presumably, may also consider that program out of their scope for monitoring!
If those two assumptions are both true, then Mr. Luis Navarro may have full cart-blanche for the program – maximum of freedom and minimum of control from either direct bosses or temporary grantors. He could be the one who requests music. And if so then it is understandable why this “music” seems of so low quality.
One more option which might be worth to be considered: when SIDA grants a particular program, it usually considers local government’s position on the need of such program. If in SIDA and Navarro marriage, the matchmaker was Georgian government (somebody like Giga Bokeria, or Paliko Kublashvili), then the puzzle gets made too easily! First Georgian government may have dealt with Navarro, and “propose” CRRC, as reliable research institution (we’ll talk about CRRC later), then Georgian government might have suggested to SIDA to fund sociological polls in Georgia (something which in fact is closer to SIDA, than to NDI) and proposed NDI Tbilisi office, as very distinguished partner which has other arm, observing elections! And as SIDA trusted Navarro, then Navarro trusted CRRC and society got the result, – the program in which pro-governmental research institution does a job – researching how the population feels (love!) about the government!
My “reasonable doubt” tells me that in such scenario the field-making by CRRC could be very relevant to what government would suggest – public workers, police, handy media, bankers, villagers…
Does that sound as too much conspiracy? Hell, not in Saakashvili’s Georgia!
What is CRRC? Who is Levan Tarkhnishvili?
Caucasian Research Resource Center is not a legal entity, but rather a program which has been established in all South Caucasian countries in 2003 thanks to US government support with the goal of strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the region. CRRC network unites well-known experts of different kind and is engaged in poll conducting. Although not directly associated with Saakashvili government, but anybody in Georgia knows about warm relationship between CRRC-Georgia and Misha. The first executive director of CRRC, notorious Levan Tarkhnishvili, a good friend of whole UNM leadership and product of Liberty Institute, was so much trusted by Misha that he made him Chairman of Central Election Commission for 2008 pivotal elections. Methods of sophisticated falsification by CEC on those elections included some really “trade-marked innovations”: like all reports from regional CEC bureaus have been sent by fax personally to Levan Tarkhnishvili, and that fax was in the closed room, where nobody else but himself had key to enter! Tarkhnishvili kept whole country inseveral-day darkness until UNM has counted how much they lost in Tbilisi and large cities and how much they had to falsify in some, mainly – minority-populated regions.
It was 2008 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, “managed” by Mr. Tarkhnishvili, which has been called by Human Right Election observing mission report in way which needs no explanation, as it speaks itself: “Georgia’s Parliamentary Elections – Unprecedented brutality and Election Fraud” (!)http://humanrights.ge/admin/editor/uploads/pdf/HRIDC%20Election%20Report.pdf
While Levan Tarkhnishvili was dispatched from “research” field to CEC Chairmanship in 2007, government still needed a “trusted” research company carrying out polls in. They “trusted” that task in 2008 to BCG. The company provided exit polls results of which have been disclosed until the end of vote! And in 2008 presidential election BCG was “forecasting” Saakashvili’s win with “unprecedented brutality”. Guess who was head of BCG that time? – Ani Tarkhnishvili, the wife of Levan Tarkhnishvili !!! The wife was “forecasting”, paving a road – The husband was following forecast, cementing UNM’s “result”.
After Levan Tarkhnishvili has got nation-wide appreciation as thief of votes, he has been replaced by Zurab Kharatishvili, which makes softer stealing. And Mr. Tarkhnishvili returned to “scientific” falsification. But it was decided that he wouldn’t take a director’s position at CRRC, leaving that to another, “clean” professor – Koba Turmanidze. As the informed people say, Tarkhnishvili who serves as Professor at Ilya State University, is still playing role of Grey Cardinal at CRRC.
Most importantly – Number #4 in the Saakashvili’s UNM list is Tamar Bokuchava, NDI staff member, and #37 is Mr. Levan Tarkhnishvili himself! AS THE JOBE WELL DONE, PARTY REWARDS ITS FAITHFUL SOLDEIRS!
In Eka Beridze show Direct Talk (of 17th September, 2012) , professor Marine Chitashvili expressed her outrage in how Mr. Navarro dared to use her name for washing dirty and dark “results” of CRRC polling. Prof. Chitashvili has been a council member for CRRC but had no knowledge of polls field studies methodology and can bear no responsibility for sure! She said she immediately provided her letter of resignation to Director K. Turmanidze.
Besides, Marina Chitashvili has asked very thoughtful questions about NDI polls and how their research is compatible with NDI mission and objectives:
1) NDI last poll have found that there is a growing polarization between government and opposition and trust is more and more diminished. The question is, believing in that one could ask what NDI has done to prevent that alarming tendency. Should there have been more activity from NDI local office rather than simply observing the trend?
2) According to NDI polls the most trusted institutions in Georgia are not the ones which represent democratic society (Parliament, Independent Justice, Media, Civil Society…), but church, army and police! Even if so, is it something NDI may crow about?
3) NDI polls plainly state that gender inequality remains an issue and women’s engagement in political process is rather low. Marina Chitashvili has asked – what NDI office has done to prevent that trend?
4) It is also strange that if there is grwoing polarization, how so many people – over 20% can be still undecided who they vote for in just 2 weeks time?
The same day – former NDI-employee Gregory Minjack which represents Public Strategy and Ukraine-based NGO – Georgian Voice for Fair Election has joined his voice expressing frustration over NDI-Georgia activities. Mr. Minjack is an expert in political processes and has more than 20 years of experience advising political campaigns in the U.S. and overseas. He was member of NDI observers’ mission in Georgia in 90s and in 2009 has got USAID highest expert rank in democracy development field.
Mr. Minjack said to “Kviris Palitra” weekly newspaper he was astonished to see what Mr. Navarro does and he said he wanted to know more about Navarro’s vision regarding huge Georgian Diaspora participation (or – barring from participation in fact!) in forthcoming elections, and what NDI responded when Georgian MoFA and CEC have introduced draconian new regulations – drastically diminishing chance for Georgian migrants to participate in elections abroad. Greg Minjack said he was astonished to hear in response that Mr. Navarro doesn’t care about Diaspora! 25% of population lives abroad and NDI office head considers that irrelevant for democracy process?? – asked Minjack. But what to expect from an official who considers announcement of Georgian Ambassador in France that Georgian illegal migrants shall not have any rights to vote – normal?! Apparently Mr. Navarro is in too close relationship with the government and not with democracy! It is a shame, like a former NDI head – Mark Mullen which serves Saakashvili. – said Minjack. I have asked Mr. Navarro, what is the methodology used in their field studies and got not reasonable answer that he doesn’t want to speak about that! I love Georgia and Georgian people and they do not deserve such NDI office! – said Greg Minjack and promised he will try to pass his frustration over Mr. Navarro’s job performance to NDI leadership in USA.
It seems, that Mr. Navarro transformed NDI Georgia office for some reasons to Gallup center and due to his wish not to displease Saakashvili’s government he left behind those objectives and tasks, which should have been NDI’s priority according to organization’s main mission. While Navarro and CRRC printout satisfactory to Saakashvili poll results, the situation in democracy and civil society development regresses.
Luis Navarro, in his recent appearance at media, always streses out that his approiach is based on his principles and views. But one can doubt how objective and conflict-of-interest-free those principles and views are:
- For example, from beginning, NDI polls are given to CRRC. Always (and Forever?). One can approve such faithfulness, but here comes the reasonable question – when you want to create trust to your polls why always to choose the organization which has so badly rotten roots as Vote-stealer Levan Tarkhnishvili? Why not try at least once to engage somebody else? The reasonable answer is – that will displease Saakashvili and his elite! In CRRC they trust!
- Most interesting peculiarity on NDI (and IRI!) polls done with open methodology when interviewer interviews respondents (in focus groups – videocamera armed interviewer asks questions to groups of people), which are given words that anonymity is kept, but which live in Georgia, where 70% of students have answered positively on question – “Do you think you phone talks are listened?” such open polling methodology the number of respondents who deny to disclose their political preferences, or to answer – “I don’t know!” has always been incredibly high! 35-45%. Although that is rather common in countries with established autocracies (Zimbabwe, e.g.) , Mr. Navarro vehemently denies that may have anything with fear! He explains that this is a Georgian habit, Georgians do not want to share their opinions, and they don’t want to have tense talks (?!), they prefer to keep everything secret! – says an expert in Georgian psychology – Mr. Luis Navarro. He admits he has heard about Fear factor in Georgian society, but he simply doesn’t believe in it!
It would have been incredibly interesting after that prison rape and torture scandal to re-ask Mr. Navarro, whether he reconsiders his “expert opinion” about fear factor in Georgian society. But Mr. Navarro could work-out some other “intelligent explanation”, I guess.
Despite of what Mr. Navarro feels, majority of both local and foreign experts (of course not mentioning such desperate defendants of Saakashvili regimen, as Vladimir Socor, Ariel Cohen and well paid Misha’s lobbying company Greenberg-Quinlan-Rossner) suggest that in fact such high rate of refraining to reveal their choice respondents can only be result of intimidation and firing campaign introduced by Misha and his “institutions” on anybody who dares to support opposition.
Therefore Georgian and foreign experts do advise to government and polling institutions to carry out so called “close polls”, when person’s anonymity is far more protected, is he puts his answers in a box, Rather than openly answering questions which above all can be recorded on video!. As expected, when such methodology was used by some other polling institutions, nearly 3:1 lead of UNM over Georgian Dream to almost 50-50 distribution. That proves, that majority of those refraining to disclose their choice voters are in fact supporters of Georgian Dream, majority of whom would reveal their choice if a little bit of more anonymity would be offered thus decreasing their exposure from being politically fired or intimidated by any other terms.
Based on that majority of independent experts do univocally draw recommendation that for overcoming that huge rate of non-disclosed respondents in IRI and NDIU polls would be to follow methodology used by Penn-Schoenn-Berland and others and to use close interview method at least once! Dr. Iago Kachkachishvili has proposed either to pass this methodology top CRRC or to do parallel studies with CRRC for making reason of discrepancy clear. However, it is a deaf ear which Mr. Navarro and CRRC direct top such advise. That to me clearly says – we know we make bias and we want to continue to make bias! It is pretty understandable as well as even allowing such method to be used at least once, it would reveal that all previous fairy tales about UNM strong leadership was simply based on number of non-willing to disclose respondents, which in n great majority are favoring Georgian Dream.
One more extremely important issue is how CRRC does its field work and forms its focus groups! This is the most sacral issue, CRRC would never ever disclose! It is alpha and omega of CRRC falsifications. I know from people who have received this information from field workers on terms of non-disclosure that 80-90% of fields and focus groups are formed from the respondents clearly loyal to UNM! There have been some rumors that majority of these groups are from following categories – Public Servants (e.g. ministerial staff or school teacher), bank workers, students associated with government-ruled Student Self-Management (a new type of Komsomol a-la-Misha) groups – these are the social groups either associated with the government or having too much to loose (job, not bad salaries, support premiums, etc). Another subgroup is rural population , which may have not much to loose, but thanks to Saakashvili propaganda machine having no competitor at regions, they are far from understanding what’s up in the country and accepting Saakashvili lies as truth.
Mr. Luis Navarro and CRRC have shockingly similar taste what to ask Georgian society and what to never ask! Likewise similar is their taste in when exactly to ask this or that particular question.
For example, Luis Navarro ranked as very interesting a question when Lazika city – a delirious mega project of Mikhail Saakashvili – will be build (I can’t recall any person aside of propagandists of Saakashvili interested in that issue) but he and CRRC have felt it was not interesting for Georgian citizens a question, why and what grounds State Audit Service fines Georgian Dream on multimillion fines whilst fines against UNM are so modest! What Georgian citizens think about special rule against Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Cartu Bank was introduced and then cancelled in just 3 months when Cartu Bank has lost 180 million GEL by that special rule! CRRC never asked respondents what they think about fairness of government support to Kakheti hailstorm victims and why Presidential and Government special funds are so secretly spent! interestingly CRRC has asked opinion of respondents regarding importance of State Voters’ List Commission work when the results were yet not presented, (and proudly saying citizens feel this has not being an alarming issue now, but have not asked the same question, when final results have shown that voters’ list has not been decreased, but furthermore inflated and everybody has frustration regarding new falsification done by government. Similarly after stating a question correctly in February 2012 – how many of you would follow Ivanishvii’s call for street actions if elections are fraudulent, the same question was changed to simply – “– how many of you would follow Ivanishvii’s call for street actions”, which gave biased results and CRRC stated with satisfaction that number of street actions supporters “has been decreased”! It was also very absurd to ask – “What do you know about Ivanishvili’s plans?” when Ivanishvili presented a program but there was not a plan. The same time CRRC didn’t ask what would you now about UNM plan?
All the above mentioned makes me thinking that Mr. Navarro and Saakashvili’s favorite agency CRRC are not reliable independent objective judgment makers, but biased and pro-governmental agencies which are having one big task – to falsify terribly high support rate for UNM and diminish (by not discussing possible reasons for 40-45% refraining to answer group) possible supporters for Georgian Dream. Mr. Navarro and CRRC are biased and promote Saakashvili’s UNM.
Unlike case of Mr. Mullen, I can’t say what is a reason behind that favoritism, but I am sure Mr. Navarro will do anything he can not to oppose his former polls and on October 1st pivotal exit polls to fulfill the dream of Saakashvili, to receive that falsified 60% or even 70% which they would never get without fraud-masters like Tarkhnishvili, Kharatishvili and CRRC.
Georgian people will try to prevent the fraud, despite of citizenship of those who try to cheat…
P.S. Today Georgia waits for elections and it is on the werge of another revolution! Prison Rape sacandal has shown a Jackal’s face of once “Beacon of Democracy” leadership. With every day more documents and more shocking stories are revealed, which have a verdict – this system was a Hell with lable – “Welcome to Paradise!”
Some exerpts from brilliant article of Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr. a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He was formerly a research professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and a director of the Central Asia / Caucasus Institute.