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Tense week amid Coronavirus

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Tuesday, March 17
Political-economic effect of Covid-19.

As the number of Covid-19 cases increases, people asking for ethanol and masks in pharmacies aren’t receiving any.

Along with the coronavirus, Georgian media often mentions the US-funded Lugar laboratory, the only establishment in Georgia capable of identifying the virus. For several years, local pro-Russian and Russian forces were doing their utmost to discredit the laboratory, spreading rumors that it was working on a biological weapon.

Experts are constantly working on calculating economic harm caused by the Coronavirus. Damage to the tourism sector is significant, with the number of tourists decreasing in Georgia as well as all around the world; 90 % of the bookings for March and April have been canceled. Canceled flights to Iran and China will cost Georgia roughly 11.5 million dollars a month.

The damage concerns every field of economics, including the food industry, which is significantly dependent on imports and price increases in the construction sector, which receives cheap materials from China.

The inflation rate remains high, with the pandemic affecting billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s wealth, which in a week ( February23th- March 1st), decreased by 180 million dollars (from 5,55 billiard to 5,37).

However, the pandemic might also benefit Ivanishvili and his government with regard to the protest of the United Opposition planned for April 4th. The rally hasn’t been postponed yet, but if the virus keeps spreading, it may be delayed. Whether it be postponed or not, people might avoid going to the rally due to the fear.

Why did the Congressmen’s letters cease?

A few weeks ago, the Georgian government kept receiving letters from American congressmen, expressing their deep concern regarding the overall level of democracy in Georgia, as well as conducting the upcoming parliamentary elections fairly. Recently, the critical letters stopped, raising one of the suppositions about the Georgian Dream settling relations with US partners through lobbyists.

Adam Kingizer, Co-Chairman of the US Group of Friends of Georgia, in his interview with American Voice, advised the Georgian government to fulfill its promises to the population- to reform the electoral system and to stop political persecution of the opposition’s representatives. “If we don’t see the changes, what we'll do is going to be unexpected,” announced Kinginzer.

Georgia’s Western partners are putting Ivanishvili's government under pressure and if not for this pressure, negotiations regarding the electoral system would not have been possible.

Attempt to break up the opposition

The long-drawn negotiations regarding the electoral system allows drawing several conclusions. The government was trying to achieve an agreement on the most favourable system for itself and was holding talks not with the United Opposition as a whole, but with individual parties, especially the smaller ones. The ruling party is doing its best to break up the opposition, spreading phrases such as ‘the National Movement’s hostages,’ and ‘the National Movement and its divisions.’ The Georgian Dream is also talking about Saakashvili’s newly opened headquarters, saying that he will try to ‘convince the most part of the opposition.’

Russian games around the subject of genocide

The Russian government stated that the Russian Duma is going to acknowledge “the 1918-1920 Ossetian Genocide by Georgia.” Of course, there was no genocide, but the Russian authorities are not interested in the historical truth. Their action plan is probably very simple- Duma will acknowledge ‘Ossetian Genocide by Georgia.’ This will be followed by Russia addressing other countries, requesting that it also be acknowledged as with the case of the Armenian genocide by the Turkish, and will announce the occupied ‘South Ossetia’ as the part of Russia.

The story of Moscow talking about ‘Georgia’s genocide of Ossetia’ is a long one. Communists started talking about this after 1921, when they occupied Georgia and forcefully sovietised it. It was especially intensely discussed in 1924, when they drowned the Georgians’ revolt in blood.

In Post-Soviet times, they remembered the topic of the Ossetian genocide after Saakashviil’s government acknowledged the Circassian genocide. However, the Russian Duma didn’t dare to finish what it started. It is cynical of the Russian Duma to be speaking about genocide, themselves being responsible for multiple genocides in the Caucasus alone.

The Georgian government shouldn’t leave the stirring up of the topic of genocide unanswered. Instead, it has to introduce the international community to what was happening in 1917-1921. The policy of ‘not irritating Russia’ might turn out to be very detrimental in this case.
(Translated by Mariam Mchedlidze)