|Georgia—Lobbyists and Other PR Animals|
|December 07, 2011|
By Giorgi Lomsadze
Georgia is at its flamboyant best these days. An eccentric billionaire wants to take the country away from its adventurous president ; plans are underway to build a whole new city of 500,000 people pretty much out of the blue; a television manager catapults himself  into a TV station and nearly yanks the channel off the air, while lawmakers almost get physical  over a proposal to fatten the Georgian parliament by 40 seats. These dramas, big and small, provide for a show that is often bewildering, but never boring, as one foreign reporter observed.
The battle between tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili and President Mikheil Saakashvili, though, still makes for the main storyline of the season. To catch you up on the latest, Ivanishvili the billionaire seems to have realized that being a cab-driver icon to some Georgians, and a welcome agent of political balance to others is not enough. So, he hired a Washington, DC-based lobbyist .
With the help of BGR Government Affairs, Ivanisvhvili will compete against Saakashvili for the good graces of US political and media circles. Aside from its ties with the US government past (George W. Bush and friends) and present, the Saakashvili administration has two US lobbying groups, Podesta Group and Orion Strategies, on its side.
Conceivably, the idea to sign up BGR Government Affairs could have been pitched by Ivanishvili's new political ally, Irakli Alasania, the former-UN-envoy-turned-opposition-leader who also has made use of the PR firm's services.
Any stamp of approval from US officialdom or media-dom could carry lots of weight in Western-leaning Georgia, especially as the government portrays the billionaire as pro-Russian, offering as proof Ivanishvili’s businesses in Russia and stake in Gazprom.
And, now, a very opinionated zebra seems to agree with that point of view.
Yes, you read that right. As the two sides cross PR swords, a little animation featuring an inquisitive giraffe and know-it-all zebra , presented as inmates of a rumored Ivanishvili zoo, has appeared online to spell out in English and Russian what the billionaire’s goals supposedly are.
The video creators are unknown, although the zebra and giraffe's occasional mistakes in English do not suggest a native English speaker was the scriptwriter. The giraffe's confusion about Ivanishvili may be widespread, but the zebra's conspiracy theory that the businessman was "forced" to give up his "exciting and careless life" and go into "the politics" in Georgia to avoid losing "big part of his capital" in Russia clearly tows the pro-Saakashvili line.
Will team Ivanishvili respond with an animated video as well to give its own take about what's afoot in "the Georgian politics"? Watch out, there may be a cartoon festival upon us yet.
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