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Pre-election Georgia: “hawks” and “doves” are tearing “Georgian Dream” apart

The closer the date of the next parliamentary elections in Georgia is, the harder things in that country are. This, first of all, concerns the Georgian Dream coalition bloc, where controversy among the allies is becoming more and more obvious.

Much has already been said about the conflict between the Republican Party and the Industry Will Save Georgia Party. The Republicans’ wish to break away from the coalition has been confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze, who thinks that nothing awful will happen if the parties run in the parliamentary race independently.

If we divide the members of the Georgian Dream into “hawks” and “doves,” the Republicans are “hawks” as they advocate a tougher pro-western attitude towards Russia.

The Republicans hold several ministerial portfolios: Tinatin Khidasheli is Defense Minister, Paata Zakareishvili is Reconciliation and Civil Equality Minister, Gigla Agulashvili is Environment Protection and Natural Resources Minister. The post of defense minister is very important in Georgia and though not a military person, Khidasheli has already made a number of bellicose statements with respect to Russia and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has supported her.

In response, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that such unfriendly statements could not contribute to the declared wish of the Russian and Georgian authorities to improve their relations. So, the waiver deal will hardly be made soon. And this is exactly what Khidasheli and her American supervisors want.

As a result of the controversy inside the Georgian Dream we can witness quite paradoxical indirect disputes between Margvelashvili and Zurab Abashidze, who represents Georgia at the talks with Russia.

After his meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said: “We see an occupation in Georgia, similar challenges in Ukraine. Until Russia recognizes Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the free choice of the Georgian people, as long as we are facing the problem of occupation, this will be a challenge to our security. But of course our goal is to lower the temperature in this conflict.” If you remember, this very Hammond has refused to thank Russia for its decision to withdraw its troops from Syria and said that this is the same as to thank a husband for stopping to beat his wife. Quite a strange logic as the “wife” in this case is ISIL, a globally acknowledged terrorist organization.

And Kvirikashvili’s statement fits quite well into this logic.

In the meantime, the Republicans said that even if they split from the bloc they will keep their ministerial offices – though international practice implies automatic resignation.

One of them, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament David Usupashvili said that the Republicans are not going to go out of the coalition. But what actually upset the Georgians was the last statement by President of the European People’s Party Joseph Daul, who said that his party will support visa-free regime with Georgia only if the forthcoming parliamentary elections in that country are free and fair. In fact, the European People’s Party is a twin brother of Georgia’s United National Movement. So, Daul’s words sound as blackmail – for the only free and fair outcome for his party is if the winner is the party of Mikheil Saakashvili.

Daul is also concerned about violations of political rights and pressures on mass media in Georgia. But where was his party when the United National Movement was killing its opponents in the streets and was torturing dissidents in jails, when they were seizing businesses from people and storming the opposition Imedi TV company?

But as we can see, in their time, Duvalier, Samoza and Idi Amin were quite acceptable politicians for Europe and even bin Laden was once regarded as a fighter for democracy. So, it was not a surprise to see Daul booed at the Tbilisi Airport and dismissed by some of his European Parliament colleagues. Hannes Swoboda said that it is for the European Parliament to decide if there will be visa-free regime with Georgia or not, while Heidi Hautala from the Group of the Greens said that it was not fair to link the elections with the visa issue.

According to former Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, leader of the Democratic Movement Nino Burjanadze, the Georgian authorities’ hopes to get a visa-free regime with the EU this June are absolutely groundless. And she is 100% sure that it was the United National Movement who inspired Daul to make such a statement.

“Unfortunately, the Georgian Dream has failed to weaken the influence of the United National Movement either in the European People’s Party or in any other structures as they are not efficient at all,” Burjanadze said.

Irakli Chkheidze, specially for EADaily

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