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New wave of controversy in Georgian politics

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, July 21
The events of July 5-6 worsened the already polarized political process in the country and led it to a new circle of controversy. Much of the opposition in parliament is talking about boycotting with the free media accusing the government of the July 5 raid, the death of cameraman Lekso Lashkarava and the desecration of his memory. Opposition and free media representatives demand the resignation of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. Georgian Dream does not consider the protest wave dangerous and intends to make no concessions.

By appointing the judges, he showed everyone that he intends to fulfill the agreement reached through the mediation of Charles Michel only on their own terms.

It is clear that disrupting the planned march which was to be held in support of the LGBTQI+ community in the center of Tbilisi on July 5 was just a well-chosen excuse for the government to act on their intentions. The counter-rally organizers were well aware that quite a large part of the Georgian society disapproves of LGBTQI+ holding public rallies and intentionally used them as a tool.

The target of the violent crowd turned out to be the media and even the EU flag raised in front of the parliament building, which was torn down twice - on July 5 and 6 - by the organizers of the rally. If the tearing down of the flag was a symbolic act, the raid on media representatives was brutal and large-scale. All media representatives were targeted and 53 were beaten, many of them- mercilessly.

Lekso Lashkarava, a TV 1 cameraman died as a result of the beating. Against the background of the Georgian media, Russia Today worked with no hindrances, broadcasting live coverage of the events for 77 minutes.

The opposition in Georgia is actively talking about the fact that Russia was interested in the events of July 5-6 and was probably actively involved in its organization. As for the government, the main culprit is Mikheil Saakashvili and, consequently, the National Movement. According to the Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, the events of July 5-6 were another unsuccessful conspiracy against the state, planned by anti-state and anti-church forces.

According to Irakli Kobakhidze, a former parliamentary speaker and one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream, “the leader of these radical anti-Christian groups is Mikheil Saakashvili, who is leading the process from Kiev.”

This version is hard to believe for many, as a number of clergymen took part in the July 5-6 rally, or actively made supportive statements. In the role of direct organizers were people known for their anti-Western and pro-Russian position.

Alexander Dugin, a Russian imperialist and well-known ideologue of the Kremlin, reacted enthusiastically to the July 5 rally by writing on his Facebook page: “I sincerely admire these people …”. Official Moscow also reminded us of these tense days for Georgia. The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a special report on the human rights situation in 43 countries around the world. These are the countries whose policies Moscow doesn’t like. Naturally, Georgia was among them. The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that the Armenians living in Javakheti are demanding autonomy, while the Azerbaijanis living in Kvemo Kartli are demanding wider political representation. According to experts, by raising the issue of ethnic minorities, Moscow aims to intimidate Georgia and show that Russia is ready to manipulate this issue in the future.

Outside forces cannot be considered as direct organizers of the counter-rally on July 5-6. A wave of violence could have been avoided had the government brought as much well-equipped police to the streets as it usually does to disperse opposition rallies, or to arrest Nika Melia.

Some believe that Russian-organized violent groups were also aided by the ‘Russian oligarch-led’ local government. According to some, the Georgian government only wanted to crack down on non-governmental organizations and the media but ‘lost control of the situation’ - it got a worse result than expected. That is why the police abducted the body of the deceased Lekso Lashkarava from the house for examination and the examination immediately concluded that the death was caused by drug overdose. The government's action is easy to explain - it must prove that the July 5-6 news did not result in casualties and that the severely beaten cameraman was not beaten to death.

But the statements made by the head of the government or the representatives of the Georgian Dream only increase the indignation of the part of the society that sees the government as the main criminal of the events of July 5-6.

Part of the opposition, especially Lelo and the National Movement, has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. They have in fact gone into a boycott mode and will only take part in voting on changes to the constitution.

Lelo is starting the procedure of declaring ‘no confidence’ in the government. The 50 votes needed to start the procedure will be collected, but the opposition does not have the 78 votes needed to dismiss the government. Therefore, Georgian Dream is mocking this effort of the opposition.

In the conditions of the new wave of controversy, the calculation of the Georgian Dream government team is still classic - neither the opposition, nor the independent media, have the power to organize rallies large enough to make them think about changing the Prime Minister. Accordingly, the Charles Michel document will be implemented in the way and in the way that the Georgian Dream deems necessary.