Georgian press review (February 12-18)
One of the most actively discussed topics in the Georgian media was a recent scandal in the ranks of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition.
One of its representatives Gogi Topadze has accused the head of the Ministry of Defense, Tina Khidasheli, of fraud during last year's interim parliamentary elections in Sagarejo. "According to the law, Khidasheli should be under questioning, but not in the minister's office, because in October of last year she had falsified the interim parliamentary elections in Sagarejo and used the Ministry of Defense's resource for this purpose. It wasn't enough for her, so she took part in the counting of ballots and posted a photo in a social network. I still do not understand what we are dealing with: stupidity or arrogance. Khidasheli disgraced her coalition by these unlawful actions," he said in an interview with the Saqartvelo da Msoflio newspaper.
According to observers, the episode demonstrates the dysfunctional situation within the ruling coalition.
"According to political analysts, this statement not only points to the opposition, but also demonstrates that people cannot stand each other in the coalition. They regard Topadze's action as an attack, and they say that in such conditions when the coalition cannot deal with their members it will be difficult for them to convince voters that they can solve the problems of the country. Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili said that it would be nice if the coalition could make some changes, as "any news is an expectation of progress." According to him, the current composition won't attract voters... As for the renewal of the coalition, Tsiskarishvili considers that Ivanishvili should make a decision, but those who join the coalition should correspond to clear and explicit criteria. According to him, internal squabbles and all discussions will bring the situation to a change in the composition of the coalition rather than Ivanishvili making a decision,'' the newspaper notes.
One of the constant themes of the publication remains the devaluation of the lari.
It was the main topic in an interview to Rezonansi with Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri. "Exchange Rate Variability happens due to external factors. You can see this difficult economic situation around us. Even countries with strong economiea are vulnerable to exchange rate instability," he said.
"Yes, the situation with export-import has balanced more or less, but transfers from Russia, Ukraine and Greece have decreased. It is also important that the export prices that affect the economy also decreased. I would like to say that we don't expect a sharp change of course in terms of devaluation. The neighboring countries are stable and we have a hope that the exchange rate will stabilize, and in the medium term we expect quite serious strengthening. It's not just words, it is really true, the lari will strengthen," the minister promised.
The economic situation is difficult and this cannot help affecting common people. This is evident from the fact that taxi drivers face these problems in Tbilisi.
"700,000 people use public transport daily. There are about 50,000 taxis in the city. It turns out that there is one taxi available for every 14 passengers. It is not enough. The majority cannot use taxi services for financial reasons. Therefore, the service won't be repaid. The devaluation of the lari has created a big problem for the population. People began to reduce expenditure. Meanwhile, the number of taxis is growing in the capital. Competition is intensifying and revenue is declining. Private taxi drivers have problems due to a lot of taxi companies that were created in recent years. Some of them work according to reduced tariffs. Local drivers compete with visitors from the regions and it caused a super saturation in the number of taxis. Experienced taxi drivers and beginners complain about the problems. They say that sometimes they cannot even earn a living," Rezonansi reports.
"It's hard to say whether the problems associated with Gogi Topadze are systemic or whether there are relapses. In recent years he has said a lot of things and they were not really civilized and correct. I do not know what opinion Topadze expressed – the Georgian Dream coalition's opinion or his personal one, but we can say that it is a special case which goes beyond politics. I have to agree with Bidzina Ivanishvili who said about Topadze that the age takes its toll. Of course, Topadze is dangerous for the coalition. When the leader of one of the parts of the coalition says that the leader of another part of the coalition falsified the elections, what problems are bigger than it? Gogi Topadze's position is so incomprehensible, that it confused absolutely everyone. No one knows how to diagnose him after it," the publication Rezonansi cites the political analyst Gia Khukhashvili as saying.
Such aggression against a Republican in the coalition expresses its eclecticism. At the very beginning the coalition did not have a common platform or common worldview. Its biggest faction and the Republican Party have radically different worldviews. In some cases they even contradict each other. On this basis, their intolerance of each other is clear. They have ideological differences. We see it from time to time. It is difficult to say whether this hostility is enough for the collapse of the coalition. Despite this dislike, the awareness of self-worthlessness does not allow the entities coalition to get off the shoulders of Bidzina Ivanishvili. They do not like each other, but they love to sit on Ivanishvili's shoulders. They prefer to sit there and showered each other with punches rather than peel and stand firmly on the ground," the respondent continued.
In this regard, there is a view that this conflict can render the ruling coalition a left-handed service during the parliamentary elections.
"To save the image of the coalition and gain support in the elections Bidzina Ivanishvili is strongly advised to update his team. Everyone agrees that it's not just an ordinary confrontation among the members of the Georgian Dream. They openly attack and lay heavy charges against each other. According to political analysts, Ivanishvili should update his team to improve the situation. In an extreme case, the coalition should create a mechanism of 'punishment' for 'violent' team members," the Rezonansi newspaper writes.
"With the help of a taxi cab I have supported my family for 10 years. Now the work has become hell, I don't spare myself, but I start working early morning and come back late at night with empty pockets. Every day I can hardly earn a living and my family also has a lot of expenses. I don't know what to do, as my income has halved. Previously I had 7-8 clients a day if I worked a few hours. And now I have 4 clients at the most. It has become unprofitable to work as a taxi driver in Tbilisi, as there are more taxis than passengers in the city. Unfortunately, I cannot do anything else," resident of Tbilisi Vaso Kbilashvili told the newspaper.
"I am an engineer by profession, but I even didn't try to work according to my specialisation. My age won't allow me to do this. I'm over 40, and despite my experience, it is impossible to find a job. That is why I decided to work as a taxi driver. I have been working for 2 years in this field. At first I earned well, but now we hardly cover the cost of fuel. There are a few new companies which have taken away our passengers. We cannot compete with them. Everybody began to work as taxi drivers, and that is why we have few customers. People don't have money and they prefer to use cheap public transport. You may be surprised, but sometimes we do not even have enough for bread. I haven't tried to raise the tariff and I don't even want to try, because that way I will lose more customers," Zviad Gabiskiriya says, a refugee living in Tbilisi.
Finally, another perennial topic for Georgian media remains relations with Russia.
One of the most consistent supporters is still the leader of the United Democrats Nino Burjanadze. "I don't care who calls me pro-Russian, or who doesn't. By pinning a pro-Russian label on me, Saakashvili wanted to destroy me. But he partly hurt himself, because most of the population of Georgia believes that we need to normalize relations with Russia. They know very well that the United Democrats have such an opportunity. I don't understand what pro-Western and pro-Russian courses mean. A Georgian politician should be pro-Georgian and act in the interests of Georgia. And normalization of relations with Russia is in the interests of Georgia. I think it is a necessary condition for the unity and democratization of Georgia. I'm not afraid of labels, I am not going to break off relations with Russia. I will pay visits and hold meetings..." she said in an interview with Rezonansi.
"I think that people who do not see how the significant influence of Russia in modern world politics are stupid or deliberately acting against the interests of Georgia. Only a fool can say that the Russian factor should not be considered. Only a fool can hope that the West can enter into confrontation with Russia for Georgia's sake. We all saw what happened in 2008. We can see now what is happening in Ukraine. We see that the West cooperates with Russia very well regarding issues that they are interested in. Problems with Georgia and Ukraine don't bother them. So we need to reach the right conclusions and resolve our problems,'' Burjanadze summarized.