Voices from Russia

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Anti-Saakashvili Candidate Claims Victory in Georgia Vote

00 Voting in Georgia. 27.10.13


On Sunday, an opponent of outgoing president Mikhail Saakashvili claimed victory in the Georgian presidential election just hours after voting stations closed in the former Soviet nation on Russia’s southern border. Initial exit polls gave Giorgi Margvelashvili, from the anti-Saakashvili Georgian Dream party, about 65 percent of the vote in an election that marked the end of a decade in power for Saakashvili. On Sunday evening, outside his party headquarters in Tbilisi, where supporters had already taken to the streets to celebrate his win, Margvelashvili said, “I want to thank everyone who supported me. Thanks to the Prime Minister who facilitated today’s victory”. Margvelashvili is a close ally of Georgian Prime Minister and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who led Georgian Dream to a crushing victory over Saakashvili’s United National Movement in parliamentary polls in 2012.

Twenty three candidates took part in Sunday’s election in the South Caucasus nation, but the presidential position is less powerful than it was under Saakashvili, as laws passed earlier this year diluted presidential powers. Margvelashvili’s main rival, Davit Bakradze of the United National Movement, got about 20 percent of the vote according to exit polls. He said shortly after polling stations closed that the exit polls provided a “clear picture” and that he was prepared to work with the country’s new president. Both front-runners in the election pledged to continue policies of integration with the EU and NATO, and indicated a willingness to improve ties with Russia, which soured badly under Saakashvili.

According to the country’s election commission, turnout amongst Georgia’s 3.5 million registered voters was 46.6 percent. On Sunday evening, outgoing President Saakashvili said that Georgian voters had “spoken” and called on his supporters to respect the election result. A Columbia Law School graduate, Saakashvili enjoyed broad public support early in his presidency after he swept to power following Georgia’s 2003 so-called “Rose Revolution“, accomplishing successful institutional reforms. However, a disastrous defeat in a brief war with Russia in 2008 contributed to a later precipitous drop in his approval ratings. Saakashvili’s bitter political rival, Ivanishvili, is a secretive tycoon; Forbes estimates his fortune at 5.5 billion USD (175 billion Roubles. 5.75 billion CAD. 5.73 billion AUD. 4 billion Euros. 3.4 billion UK Pounds), making him Georgia’s richest man. Ivanishvili, who became prime minister last October, pledged to quit politics after the presidential vote, but hasn’t named a successor yet.

27 October 2013



Editor’s Note:

Langley’s Charlie McCarthy is history. Shall Georgian-Russian relations improve? Only time will tell us, but Saakashvili’s party went down in flames. However, the turnout was meagre. Most voters didn’t like ANY of the choices on offer and stayed home. I seem to recall that most Georgian soldiers took “French leave” during the 2008 war. They didn’t like the prospects on offer and simply melted away, going home in such numbers that the government couldn’t punish them. A clash between pro-Western factions excited less than half of the voters. Does this mean that the rest are Left voters? God alone knows, but I wouldn’t bet against it…




Friday, 17 May 2013

Patriarch Ilia Called for Calm After Orthodox Groups Thwarted Gay Rights Rally

00 Patriarch Ilie of Georgia. 20.01.13


Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, called for calm after violence erupted after aggressive anti-gay protesters, led by Orthodox clergy, thwarted a rally by a small group of gay rights activists to mark International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May. Patriarch Ilia said in televised remarks on Friday evening, “We distance ourselves from violence”. However, in reference to the gay rights rally, he said, “It’s something that shouldn’t be propagandised. We should know that this is a sin before God. We can express our sorrow without interfering in anyone’s private life. I hope that everything will calm down. I call on our people on all sides to go from the streets and return back home and to pray for each other”.

On 16 May, the Patriarch released a written statement calling on the authorities to ban the gay rights rally in downtown Tbilisi. Speaking to Orthodox believers gathered in Holy Trinity Cathedral, after the 17 May developments in Tbilisi, a senior cleric, Bishop Jakob Iakobishvili of Gardabani and Martqopi, said, “What happened today was an order coming from the nation. You know very well that the United National Movement required two-and-a-half months to gather 5,000 people [for its 19 April rally], then, they boasted, ‘See how many people we gathered’. Today, people came into [the streets] on their own initiative… Several millions would’ve come [into the streets] if needed”.

17 May 2013

Civil Georgia


Editor’s Note:

What the Church opposes absolutely is “gay propaganda”… that is, the suborning of minors and gay rights marches are beyond the pale. On the other hand, the Church takes a nuanced view of individual homosexuals… unlike the crazed konvertsy in the USA and their hysterical leaders such as Paffhausen and Moriak (Paffhausen shouldn’t have thrown stones given his mentor and hierarchical sponsor… the roads in his case DO lead to Platina and Dallas). The Church does NOT agree with sectarian Evangelical nonsense.

In short… some people overreacted and the Patriarch made it clear that the Church doesn’t condone violence… even violence supposedly in the service of “morality”. We don’t resort to the iron boot to impose “moral behaviour” (such is a contradiction in terms, no?). That’s the way of it in Christ’s Church…


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

American Lickspittle Saakashvili Conceded Defeat in Parliamentary Elections in Georgia


On Tuesday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded defeat in the Georgian parliamentary election for his United National Movement (UNM), adding that his party would go into opposition. He went on to say in a special address acknowledging the victory of the opposition Georgian Dream in the 1 October election, “As the leader of the UNM, I declare our party will go into opposition. For me, there were fundamental unacceptable views held by the Georgian Dream coalition. There are big differences between us, and we think that its views are false. However, democracy works that way, the majority of the Georgian people have decided this, so, we respect their choice”.

2 October 2012



Editor’s Note:

I’d say that there isn’t anything to cheer about in the Georgian election yet. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of Georgian Dream, is an oligarch who holds much of the country’s wealth (some sources say up to 50 percent)… the proportion of the country’s GDP that he holds personally is far above John D Rockefeller Sr’s 1 percent of the American GDP in 1900 (which was a gross stash and hoard in itself).

Therefore, I’d say that Georgia might have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Ivanishvili may be MORE of a lickspittle to the Americans and EU, as his main preoccupation is his wealth, not the welfare of the Georgian people. I’d wait to see the reaction of people such as Nino Burdzhanadze. Langley knew that Saakashvili was on the way out, and it didn’t want Burdzhanadze in charge of the parliament for some reason (she was pro-American at one point… has she changed her spots?). Ergo, it put up Ivanishvili, who has no political experience or connections (beyond those that all of the Affluent Effluent has). That is, was the Inside the Beltway crowd using an obliging oligarch to rid itself of an increasingly-irritating liability? After all, the K Street commandos did support Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden at one time, didn’t they?

The only qualification that Ivanishvili has is his wealth… which blinds the Mammon-worshipping and money-grubbing Americans. They don’t realise that if Ivanishvili doesn’t deliver on real change (that is, abolish Saakashvili’s Neoliberal pro-oligarch/anti-people “reforms”), he’s out, too. Oh, yes… Vova’s in the wings… he be patient… the fruit WILL drop from the tree in due course.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Georgia Opposition Celebrate Election “Victory”


Thousands of opposition supporters flooded the centre of Georgia‘s capital of Tbilisi to celebrate as exit polls put their Georgian Dream coalition ahead in Monday’s crucial parliamentary elections. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire who leads Georgian Dream, said in a speech broadcast on an opposition TV channel, “We’ve won! The Georgian people have won!” However, with the official results yet to be announced, the opposition’s celebrations could prove premature. President Mikhail Saakashvili, who leads the ruling United National Movement (UNM), admitted on state television that Georgian Dream was ahead in the vote in Tbilisi, but said his coalition was winning convincingly in the provinces, saying, “But this doesn’t mean we’ll split the country between Tbilisi and the regions. We’re all citizens of Georgia and we must stand side-by-side”.

The atmosphere among the growing crowd on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square is euphoric, with chants of “Georgia.” Policing is virtually non-existent, although a drone is hovering above the crowd. However, the run up to today’s voting has been fraught with tension and fears of violence. Early on Tuesday, opposition media claimed Special Forces officers forcibly removed ballots from a number of polling stations in central Georgia’s Khashuri District. Maestro TV said officers “used tear gas and fired rubber bullets” at one polling station as they removed a ballot box in order to “rewrite” the results. The channel showed a crowd of opposition supporters heading toward polling stations in the district. Transparency International Georgia, an NGO that monitors political corruption, later confirmed the reports.

Levan Chochua, a middle-aged Georgian Dream supporter on Freedom Square warned, “There’ll be trouble if Saakashvili tries to steal the vote. Saakashvili says we’re for Russia, but we’re just for a normal life. He’s built a façade of European democracy in the centre of Tbilisi, but most people never see all this”, as he gestured at the impressive buildings that ring the square.

These elections saw Saakashvili face his most serious political threat since coming to power in 2003 as the result of a revolt against a régime led by former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. The polls took on particular importance in the light of a law passed in 2010 that transfers the majority of the president’s executive powers to the prime minister. The law comes into force from 2013 when Saakashvili’s second term ends. Whoever wins Monday’s polls will be able to appoint the prime minister. Saakashvili’s UNM enjoyed a healthy lead in opinion polls until last month, when opposition channels aired explicit footage of male inmates at a Tbilisi jail being sexually assaulted with broom handles. The videos triggered large protests across Georgia and widespread anger at Saakashvili and the UNM and saw a reported groundswell of support for the opposition.

Dark Days

American-educated lawyer Saakashvili, 44, attempted to portray Monday’s elections as a choice between continued “modernisation” and a return to what he dubbed the “dark days” of the 1990s, when the former Soviet republic lay within Moscow‘s sphere of influence. Ivanishvili, 56, and his supporters accused Saakashvili of running a dictatorship and say his policies have brought Georgia… a country of 4.5 million that’s an important transit route for oil and gas to the West… to the brink of disaster, not least by leading it into a ruinous 2008 war with its vast neighbour, Russia. Whilst staunch American-ally Georgia earned plaudits from the World Bank for its far-reaching business reforms, the opposition says it’s done nothing to alleviate poverty, and that the true number of unemployed is far above the official figure, which hovers around 15 percent.

However, critics say Georgian Dream is little more than a rag-tag alliance of parties with very little in common and that Ivanishvili will be hard-pressed to suppress the more nationalist and xenophobic elements of his coalition should it come to power. Saakashvili painted his ultra-wealthy rival, who made much of his money in Russia in the 1990s, as a Kremlin stooge seeking to “return Georgia to Russia’s imperial space”. Ivanishvili has dismissed these allegations as “laughable”. Like the UNM, Georgian Dream also states NATO and EU membership among its priority policies, although the coalition also pledged to improve relations with Russia.

Post-Poll Fears

On Monday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the elections are a “litmus test” of Georgia’s democratic credentials. American and European officials called for transparent and peaceful elections, and over 400 poll observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are in the country. Nevertheless, monitors warned last week that the build-up to the crucial polls were “confrontational and rough”. Thomas De Waal, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, told RIA Novosti, “These elections are the first serious test of Georgia’s capacity to hold a democratic election process which can lead to a peaceful transition of power at the ballot box. If the country can manage to absorb a two-party system without open confrontation it will be a big step forward”. The head of Georgia’s influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilya Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili, also urged honest elections, and carried out a pre-election blessing of Tbilisi last week.

From Penguins to Politics

Ivanishvili backed Saakashvili in the aftermath of Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution, even funding, he said, the new president’s inauguration. For years, the businessman showed little interest in being directly involved in politics, preferring instead to finance charity projects and breed penguins at his mansion in western Georgia. However, the enigmatic tycoon dropped a bombshell into Georgian politics last October when he announced that he would use some of his vast fortune of 6.4 billion USD (200 billion Roubles. 5 billion Euros. 4 billion UK Pounds)… equivalent to around half the country’s GDP… to create an alternative to the UNM, which has been in power for the past eight years.

The authorities responded by stripping him of his Georgian passport in 2011 after revelations that he’s also a French citizen. Ivanishvili said that he’ll take advantage of a law allowing EU nationals who have lived in Georgia for more than five years to hold public office to become prime minister if his opposition coalition triumphs at Monday’s polls. He said that he’ll leave office after “one or two years” if his bid for power is successful. Ivanishvili refused to vote at Monday’s polls in protest at what he said was the authorities “distortion” of the constitution, and said that the law on EU nationals was approved especially for him to rescue Georgia’s international image.

Ties With Russia

Georgia has had no diplomatic relations with Russia since 2008, when it fought and lost a five-day war with its powerful neighbour over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Russia subsequently recognised the sovereignty of South Ossetia and another breakaway republic, Abkhazia. However, a mere handful of countries have so far followed suit. Whilst Russia hasn’t backed either side at the polls, there’s great personal antipathy between Saakashvili and President Putin, who said in the aftermath of the South Ossetia conflict that he would like to “hang him [Saakashvili] by the balls”. Last week, EU military monitors said that Russian troops were building up at the administrative border with South Ossetia and that a Russian helicopter had briefly landed on Georgian-controlled territory. Moscow said the helicopter had touched down in Georgia “by mistake”. A major military exercise carried out last month by Russia in the North Caucasus also unsettled Tbilisi, although Moscow says the drills were planned well before the announcement of the 1 October elections.

2 October 2012 (MSK)



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