Georgian press review (February 26 - March 3)
The most resonant event of recent days in Georgia became last Friday's attack on the former State Minister for European Integration and one of the leaders of the Free Democrats opposition party, Alexi Petriashvili, as a result of which the politician was injured and hospitalized.
"In my opinion, the attack on Alexi Petriashvili has signs of a contract killing. When a person becomes a target on someone's order, unfortunately, it suggests the idea that there are gangsters in the country, who put contracts out on people and don't take responsibility for it. This fact insults the state, regardless of who the customer was, who the killer was, or what the motive for the attack was. We cannot forgive the organizers of the attack. I hope the case will be investigated soon and that not only the perpetrators, but also the customers will be punished. If the customers are not strictly punished, there will be even more gangsters in our country," the newspaper Kviris Palitra cited the expert Josef Tsiskarishvili as saying.
"I am glad that Alexi Petriashvili survived, but we remember Yuri Vazagashvili, who was killed right on his son's grave, when the killer was found and punished, but the law enforcement agencies do not say anything about the customer. The same thing happened in the case of Besik Hardziani, when the prosecutor's office can be praised for the professional work and identification of the perpetrator of the murders, but we know nothing about the customer. We need to put an end to this somehow, or trouble will arise. The rise in crime can be attributed to the liberalization of the penitentiary system. When we try to get closer to European standards and bring democracy in all the spheres, it should be welcomed, but it should not mean the weakening of rigor against those criminals who are required by law to serve their sentences in prison. It should be noted that our police became too polite, they often show negligence in relation to street events or petty crimes," he added.
This offense distracted the Georgian press from the other topic, which was continuously discussed in recent weeks – the conflict in the ranks of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition between Tina Khidasheli and Gogi Topadze. The attempted assassination of Petriashvili could not obscure this story.
According to some observers, the contradictions revealed may lead to the collapse of the coalition.
"It is difficult to reach a consensus in the coalition, which is evidenced by many things. Even the public information makes it clear that there is quite a tense situation and unanimity has never existed. If earlier there was the so-called coexistence between Georgian Dream and the National Movement, then after the well-known events the coexistence has already begun between the parts of the coalition. As we approach the elections, the struggle for a place under the sun is intensifying. All parties require their own, and this exacerbates the conflict, but the individual parts of the coalition, for example the Republicans, have strengthened their positions and won more than they deserve, according to the opinion of other subjects," Rezonansi cites the analyst Zaal Andzhaparidze as saying.
"This may be the reason for the campaign which was started against the Republican Party. The head of this campaign is Gogi Topadze, but when you consider the position of other members of the coalition and their passivity, it can be assumed that they are in solidarity with Gogi Topadze. So there is quite a tense situation in the coalition and I have a question – is it necessary to keep the coalition in this composition and participate in the elections? Will it cause the loss of some part of the electorate?! The coalition was created to defeat Saakashvili. It was crowned with success. After which, I think, it is unfair and not profitable from a political point of view to keep the coalition in its current form. All its members should try their forces separately, they must be brought before their voters with their own resources, ideologies and programs. It would be fair," he believes.
However, not everyone agrees with this view. In particular, there is a popular belief that the coalition would still be able to maintain its integrity.
"No one will be excluded from the coalition and incorrect statements must stop – this is the message of the former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili addressed the Georgian Dream party and the Prime Minister Kvirikashvili. The Political Council of the Georgian Dream party didn't hold a meeting, but it is already clear that Kvirikashvili has declared a public war of charges between Gogi Topadze and the Republicans completed and, despite the huge opposition of the Republicans, Topadze will remain in parliament. Presumably, as long as the parliament will accept its law on safety of products, and then he will 'voluntarily' give up his mandate and will keep his November promise," another Rezonansi article reports.
“According to political scientists, despite the sharp accusations between Topadze and the Republicans, a call for peaceful coexistence by the former Prime Minister Ivanishvili would be quite enough to stop the sides. Thus, they believed that Bidzina Ivanishvili intervened in the process and told the MPs through Giorgi Kvirikashvili that public debates and incorrect statements must have been stopped. And after the session of the faction, the MPs began to speak about the unity of the coalition and peacemaking. Members of the coalition have been waiting for a meeting of the Political Council for more than a week. The confrontation between Topadze and the Republicans should be discussed there, and discussions about the collapse of the coalition or expelling Goga Topandze from the coalition should be stopped. Meanwhile, Giorgi Kvirikashvili met the Georgian Dream faction for the first time since he became Premier. After the meeting, MPs openly spoke about the fact that all the disputes between Topadze and the Republicans were over, and the coalition was preparing for the elections,” its author reports.
In the context of these turbulent events in the country’s political life, journalists do not forget about the economy, for example, the situation over the lari exchange rate. It has strengthened slightly these days, which has coincided with the resignation of the head of the National Bank of Georgia, Giorgi Kadagidze. “The devaluated lari, the banking sector which has special privileges, huge volumes of the national currency on the market (even though there is no demand for it), making politically motivated decisions – these were characteristics of the last three years of Giorgi Kadgidze’s work as the head of the NBG. Kadagidze resigned. What can the lari expect? And what will change on the financial market? Experts have no clear answers to the questions. The only obvious thing for everybody is that the lari won’t fall lower and will start strengthening. Since the end of Kadagidze’s term on February 25th, the lari has strengthened. Yesterday the exchange rate was 2.46 on the Bloomberg platform; previously, it was fluctuating around 2.5. Some economists believed that the lari falling was connected with Kadagidze’s factor,” Rezonansi reported on March 1st.
“There were no such macroeconomic parameters in Georgia to devaluate the lari by 46%. However, the lari fell, and it was caused by a human factor. Kadagidze dealt with commercial structures. He provided interventions of $20-40 million, but the rate didn’t change. Why? Someone waited for this, collected money to buy dollars during interventions. It is nonsense to compare the situation with the devaluation of exchange rates in Turkey or Azerbaijan. There is no correlation between the lari, manat, or lira,” the newspaper cited economist Vazha Kapanadze.
The final topic which was interesting for the Georgian media was the military reform which was announced last week. It requires significant changes in the army commanding system.
“A deep structural modernization is taking place in the Georgian army. On February 27th the Security Council decided to establish two operating commanders – the Western and Eastern ones. The new system requires
centralized control and detailed fulfillment of orders. It is aimed at establishing armed forces which meet NATO standards. The Defense Ministry should provide the reform during a month,” Rezonansi reports.
It is interesting that the Red Army was commanded according to the same principle, and today the armies of Russia, Israel, China, and other countries are commanded in a similar way… Regarding Russia, it is connected with a vast territory; Israel uses the strategy for effective defense from unfriendly neighbors. The war in August 2008 showed that after blocking the main highway of the country and gaining control over the airspace by the enemy, the Georgian commanders failed,” the newspaper points out.