Dispatch – January 20/21: Temptations – Civil.ge

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Sending Saakashvili to the monastery – Prime Minister touts “return to the Holy Land” – Another guilty verdict from Strasbourg – Alliance of Patriots wakes up from hibernation

Christian teachings may say that a true believer should be able to resist many temptations, but Georgian leaders have learned to use religion as one of the most powerful temptations. This is also the reason why, as we like to say here, nothing has remained sacred in the developments that have taken place in recent days. Here’s Nini with the usual updates from Georgia.


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HERMIT OPTION Not a day goes by without someone close or close to ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili coming up with a new idea to circumvent his problematic incarceration. This is easily picked up by the media, the social media bubble and the general public. After the reactions have been more or less registered, Saakashvili himself comments – approving or disapproving whatever has been suggested. So, you never know for sure if it was his idea, in the first place, or if his concerned friends tried to do him some good. We also don’t know who came up with the idea when Bishop Nikoloz of Akhalkalaki, Kumurdo and the Diocese of Kari suggested that his diocese could accommodate the incarcerated former leader.

Tech heaven. The bishop rose to fame (or infamy?) as an early adopter of technology, with a particular fondness for the brand new iPhones his parish gave him (apparently, for making inspirational videos…). It is not surprising that he claimed to have also given Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili a USB key where he recorded excerpts from the sermons of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Ilia II on repentance and forgiveness, while the two were meeting to celebrate the Holy Epiphany at the altar of the Holy Trinity Cathedral on January 19. The bishop believes that repentance and forgiveness are the ideas the country needs in times of political enmity.

Heartfelt discussions ensued in government-critical media about whether Saakashvili really should “go to the nunnery.” The leaders of the ruling party could only jump at the chance: Irakli Kobakhidze, always acerbic, declared that the monastery would be the most difficult place for Saakashvili to stay (perhaps in reference to his many love affairs ?). Gia Volski, another opponent-basher, spoke of “exorcism”. But those medieval memories aside, a group of medical experts convened by the Public Defender said Saakashvili’s health was not improving after a long hunger strike and trauma, suggesting that specific therapies and tests were needed. Following here.

PERSONAL CRUSADE As any Georgia guest knows, medieval times are the parallel reality here, which sometimes (even literally) bleeds into everyday reality. Prime Minister Garibashvili used the Epiphany sermon to pose as a Latter Day Crusader. “Georgia has been allocated land on the banks of the Jordan, near the site of the baptism of Christ,” he announced, adding that a Georgian culture center was to be built there. “After 300 years, Georgia returns to the Holy Land,” the prime minister noted, calling the news a “historic event.” Garibashvili restores his conservative credentials with a childish fascination for holy places: not so long ago, he reminded in a candid interview with TV Imedi that after his resignation in December 2015, he traveled alone to Mount Athos in Greece to “experience a sort of detox”.

YOU HAVE BEEN SERVED But being the good Christian that he is, Mr. Garibashvili must be aware that past sins can come to haunt you (we wonder if Bishop Nikoloz served some of this wisdom to the PM in digital form as well). Another verdict arrived from Strasbourg on 20 January, with the European Court of Human Rights holding Georgia responsible for the violation of Article 2 of the Convention (right to life) in the procedural aspect concerning the absence effective investigation into the suicide of Mamuka Mikautadze the day after she was questioned by the police as a witness. Garibashvili was the one who headed the Ministry of Interior at the time, and this is not the only culpable decision of the ECHR from his respective mandate: a month ago, the Court found Georgia complicit in a mob attack on LGBTQ activists in May of that year. As well, two months A few days ago, the court ruled against Georgia in a case of police abuse and discrimination of four Muslim Georgians during their arrest in 2014, when Garibashvili had already been promoted to his term as prime minister. Another hermit, perhaps, or would a simple “religious detox” suffice?

PATRIOT ACT Do you think we haven’t covered enough conservative themes in this newsletter? Fear not, there’s more to come: The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, the nation’s leading conservative/nativist political party, has seemingly awakened from its long hibernation to bring together like-minded organizations in what they call a “United Patriots Front of Georgia”. .” The party that would make many controversial headlines for its alleged ties to Moscow ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections, disappeared from the limelight after its political leaders handed over their legislative mandates to bags of money on a party list (which – oh, the irony, founded a party called….the European Socialists). The Patriots slept happily through the tense 2021 municipal elections.

Now the party and the organizations that have joined them have issued a statement, lamenting the moral and economic decay, holding both the ruling parties and the former ruling parties responsible – alongside their evil “lobbyist” friends. Westerners, or of course. In an interesting “non-sequence”, the signatories of the declaration also ask for constitutional changes to proclaim Georgia as a neutral country. Admittedly, this is not the first time that the Patriots have called for this direction (absence) of foreign policy, but with the drums of war around Ukraine ringing louder and louder, it may not be not the best time to talk about it. Or, perhaps, quite the opposite.

That’s the full cover for today. Join us every Tuesday and Friday for ironic coverage of Georgian political life.

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