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…
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