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Friday, August 5
Head of Georgia’s Security Service Meets Azerbaijani President in Baku

The head of Georgia’s State Security Service, Vakhtang Gomelauri, met Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev during a visit to Baku on August 3.

“During the meeting, they noted the importance of expanding bilateral ties between the two countries in a variety of fields, including between security bodies. They emphasized that mutual activity of the special service bodies of Azerbaijan and Georgia contributed to the strengthening of security of the two countries,” Azerbaijani president’s office said.

In Baku Gomelauri also met his Azerbaijani counterpart Madat Guliyev and discussed cooperation in “exchange of information and experience,” the Georgian State Security Service said.

A memorandum of cooperation was signed between the state security agencies of the two countries, according to the Georgian State Security Service. (

Can an opera singer become prime minister of Georgia? – Washington Post

“One month before the United States votes in its own presidential election, Georgia (the country, not the state) will have its own parliamentary election, hoping to stabilize a political scene that has seen a variety of issues over the past few years,” The Washington Post publishes an article.

“And much as in America, a newcomer with no political background is hoping to shake up the political scene,” the article reads.

“In Georgia, however, this political newcomer's background isn't business: It's opera.

“For decades, Paata Burchuladze has had a successful career performing as operas at some of the most famous venues in the world. As a bass vocalist, his tone was described as having a "razor-edge incisiveness" in a 2001 Washington Post review of "Don Carlo" at the Washington Opera; the review also noted his flair for sounding "both stentorian and vulnerable at the same time."

“In Washington, D.C. for his third trip to the United States in recent months, Burchuladze said that he had been compelled to run for office by the failures of the current government. 'I changed my life, from this beautiful life of singing,' he explained in the lobby of the St. Regis hotel. 'La Scala and the Metropolitan! I took leave, because its now necessary for me to go into politics.'

“The 61-year-old said that he had originally formed the Georgian Development Foundation in a bid to advise the coalition government, currently headed by the Georgian Dream's Giorgi Kvirikashvili. He said the government then refused to act on his recommendations. Why exactly? 'Good question. I'd like to ask you! We don't know," Burchuladze said. 'They feel that they know everything but they do nothing.'

“Burchuladze has now formed his own party, State for the People, and initial signs suggest a surprising amount of support. In a poll conducted by theInternational Republican Institute in March, the Georgian Development Foundation was listed as the third most popular political force in the country, not far behind Georgian Dream and the centre right opposition United National Movement.

“At present it seems unlikely any party will have enough votes to form a party on its own in October's election, likely leading to a coalition government. Michael Cecire, a non-resident fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, says that it's unlikely the State for People will be the senior partner in a coalition, "but his party is a credible piece of several foreseeable configurations."

“Perhaps more startlingly, Burchuladze himself came in first place for favorability rankings for individuals, with 75 percent of Georgians found to have a positive view of him, compared to 56 percent for prime minister Kvirikashvili.

“Burchuladze's status as an internationally renowned singer hasn't hurt him, a fact he acknowledges. "My background can help me with popularity, not with anything else," he said, though he added that he knows "a lot of people all over the world, not only the opera world but also the political world" who give him advice.

“It's not all about popularity, though, Burchuladze said. Support for Georgian Development Foundation is evidence that the Georgian Dream had failed, he explained. That center left party, backed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, had been swept into power in 2012 amid growing public despair at the policies of Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili – a divisive politician who was himself brought to power amid a wave of excitement during 2004's Rose Revolution.

“The March IRI poll shows many Georgians were upset about what they saw as unfulfilled promises made by parties, as well as economic problems and unemployment. Seventy percent said the country was going in the wrong direction. "They are not professionals or they do not care," Burchuladze said of the Georgian Dream. "I don't know. Everybody is thinking about their position in government."

“Cecire says that Burchuladze seems to be positioning himself as the new face of Georgian conservatism. However, he notes that Burchuladze's proposals – like those of Georgian Dream – lack specificity. "In a way, Burchuladze's appeal is that he both double downs on the lofty economic promises made by Georgian Dream, and is helped by the disappointment many voters feel about Georgian Dream's subsequent performance," Cecire writes in an email.

“Burchuladze certainly makes some dramatic promises himself; he says that he has a plan to bring Georgia's economic growth up from not much over 2 percent to 10 percent in just two to three years. However, when pushed on rule of law, one of the key areas he wants to reform to help Georgia's economy, he struggled to explain what he would change. "It's very difficult," he said. "We have to change everything."

“What Burchuladze is clear about is that he sees the future of Georgia as Western-facing and hopes one day that the country will join both NATO and the European Union, likely seeing both organizations as back up against potential Russian belligerence. The Georgian visited the Democratic National Convention while in the U.S., though he emphasizes that he is a center right politician and willing to talk to everyone. He also downplayed recent comments made by Republican hopeful Donald Trump about NATO.

“'From our position, nothing changes,' he said. 'What Trump or someone else says, that's about the U.S. relationship to NATO. We have another relationship with NATO."

“'What is happening now, it doesn't mean that after five years the same thing will be happening,' Giorgi Rukhadze, head of the State for People's foreign policy, added.

“That's true in Georgian politics too. As Burchuladze noted, it only took four years for the hope surrounding Georgian Dream to fade. His plan is to do better. He has no plans to return to the world of opera anytime soon, he said, but ultimately that decision may not be lie with him. He plans to stay in politics for at least one other parliamentary election.

“'If voters tell me 'that's enough,' then I'll leave,' he said. (IPN)