Headlines from Television News:
- Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, will make a televised address to nation at 6 pm local time about what the General Prosecutor’s Office said was a conspiracy to overthrow the government after the January 5 elections. PM Lado Gurgenidze told reporters after a session of the National Security Council on December 24, that no comments would be made before Burjanadze’s planned address.
- Representatives of oppositional New Right Party and Industry Will Save Georgia commented on the video material released by General Prosecutor’s Office earlier today. They claimed that they were interested in the location, time and other circumstances of the conversation. The Georgia’s General Prosecutor’s Office released scandalous video material this afternoon that can prove that Badri (Arkadi) Patarkatsishvili, presidential candidate who is also Georgian business tycoon and his various supporters planned coup-de-tat for January 6, 2007. The video material depicts negotiations held between Valeri Gelbakhiani, MP and head of Patarkatsishvili’s electoral headquarters and Erekle Kodua, Head of the Special Operative Department of Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the conversation with Kodua, Gelbakhiani claimed that they would spend much money in organizing people to come out in the street on January 6 regardless of the actual results of the snap presidential elections of January 5, 2008 in Georgia. The hidden video records of these negotiations were handed over to the Office of General Prosecutor by Kodua for immediate action. Full investigation is already opened into the case under the charges of high treason, conspiracy and coup-de-tat ploy.
- Badri Patarkatsishvili and his allies are “plague” and “devil” and the country should “get rid of them,” Gigi Ugulava, the mayor of Tbilisi, said on December 24. He was speaking with reporters before the start of an emergency session of the National Security Council, which was convened shortly before the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that the Patarkatsishvili’s campaign headquarters head, MP Valery Gelbakhiani, was suspected of plotting coup. “This is a plague. Our country is raided by a devil - [Badri] Patarkatsishvili and [Valery] Gelbakhiani – and the country should get rid of this plague, because this is not the fight against the government, this is already the fight against the country. But the state will survive and [the state] will give an adequate response,” Ugulava said. Secretary of the National Security Council Alexander Lomaia told reporters before the NSC session that the society has seen “what a real plan of opponents” were. He was referring to a video tape issued by the General Prosecutor’s Office earlier today.
- The building of the Art Group Company earlier mentioned in relation to Ex Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Okruashvili has been burnt down completely, Mze TV Company reports on December 24. According to the data of the TV Company, the fire broke out on December 23 at 23 o’clock. No one was damaged, but the building was burnt down completely and later the fire removed to the neighboring company office too. Firemen managed to extinguish the fire in only several hours. The fire reasons aren’t known. The damage totals USD 7 million. The Aldagi Insurance Company will completely reimburse the damage. Martins Watswangs, General Manager of the Art Group, doesn’t rule out that the fire could have been deliberately caused. He stated that the fire couldn’t break out in itself in the frost. The name of Guram Gogua, One of the Founders of the Art Group, emerged in the case on machinations for selling the shares of the GeoCell Company. The investigation asserts as if Ex Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Okruashvili had been also involved in the mentioned case. Dimitri Kitoshvili, Press Speaker of the President of Georgia, was also arrested concerning the mentioned case. The Art Group was founded in 1992 in Georgia as an exclusive distributor of the production of huge international perfumer companies, including the Procter&Gamble, Wella, Ferrero Roche.
Georgian Prime Minister Met Political Scientists and Economists at Strategy and International Relations Fund
December 24, 2007; Source: Prime-News Business
Lado Gurgenidze, Georgian Prime Minister, met political scientists and economists at the Strategy and International Relations Fund on Sunday. In his words, the government conducts systematically interactive meetings of such size. “Meetings like these are very interesting and useful as opinion exchange on economic situation, economic priorities and future plans in the country has place”, Lado Gurgenidze noted. According to Lado Gurgenidze, the government will present projects on economic programs and draft of budget for 2008 to the public in the near future. “Format of conversation with public is our style. We will give opportunity to the public to draw conclusion of how efficiently we are working. At the stage there are much concurrences: the end of the year, new draft of budget has worked out, pre-election period. We’ll speak about this on the level of definite actions and not on rhetorical level. I’m ready to answer all questions, to discuss strategic issues, funds and years need for poverty and unemployment reduction in Georgia. I want to mention once more that stability is necessarily in the first place to achieve all these,” Premier stated.
Salford Says Failure of Government to Fully Remedy Damages Will Result in Embarrassing and Costly Li
December 24, 2007; Source: The Financial
“After almost one month since its seizure of Standard Bank, the Georgian Government has completely failed to provide any meaningful justification of their actions or remedy this scandal” Salford Capital said in a statement released last week. “Knowing that their seizure was without any merit and completed purely for political motives, the Georgian Government is faced with the option of fully remedying damages caused by their actions or face an embarrassing and costly international litigation which will expose the unlawful actions perpetrated by them and the overtly political nature of this scandal”. "Salford's legal counsel and forensic auditors are finalising preparations to initiate a legal case against the Georgian Government and all other parties involved in this. As we gather more evidence, it is clear that we have a very strong case. By now, I have no doubt the Georgian Government knows this too. Delaying full remedy of this issue will only further increase damages owed to us”, Peter Nagle, Managing Director of Salford stated.
Patarkatsishvili’s Ally MP Suspected of Coup Plot
December 24, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge ; Prime News; Black Sea Press; Interpressnews; www.messenger.com.ge
MP Valery Gelbakhiani, who is chief of presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili’s campaign headquarters, is suspected of conspiracy to overthrow the government, Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said on December 24. “At this stage MP Gelbakhiani will be interrogated in a status of suspect and if there is need by prosecutors to arrest him, we will request about it the Parliament,” Gvaramia said. A lawmaker can not be arrested unless he enjoys with immunity which can be stripped by the Parliament. Gvaramia said that investigation into “an attempt of forceful overthrow of the government” was launched on December 17, when Irakli Kodua, head of the Interior Ministry’s Special Operations Department (SOD), notified investigators that a former judge Marina Gabunia and MP Valery Gelbakhiani were trying to bribe him in exchange for taking part in conspiracy. Gvaramia said that in cooperation with Kodua investigators were able to covertly record two meetings between him and MP Gelbakhiani during which the latter tells the interior ministry official that the plan was “to thwart elections” and “to trigger mass unrests in Tbilisi and in entire Georgia.” A black and white video tape of poor quality was then aired by all the Georgian national television stations. In the video tape MP Gelbakhiani tells Kodua that during the planned unrests his task would be to arrest Vano Merabishvili, the interior minister. Kodua asks why he was so sure that people would go out in the streets on January 6 that was an essential part of the plot. Gelbakhiani replays that “lot money will be spent.” “We will have 80,000 paid activists in our structures, which we are currently creating, so at least 200,000 people will go out in the streets,” he added. Gelbakhiani also tells Kodua that election results were not important, important was to create an illusion of ballot rigging and to stir up unrests, “it will be a theatrical show.”. He also says that he was in contact with “Gachechiladze’s team” – referring to presidential candidate, Levan Gachechiladze, who is backed by the nine-party opposition coalition. The second meeting with Kodua, Gvaramia said, takes place on December 21 after Gelbakhiani arrived from London where he held consultations with Badri Patarkatsishvili. He also said that Kodua had also personally met with Patarkatsishvili over the issue. MP Gelbakhiani has confirmed that he met with Kodua, but said that tape was edited. He told Rustavi 2 TV in a phone conversation that his major goal was to have an ally within the Interior Ministry so that to prevent break up of possible protest rallies after the January 5 elections. Gelbakhiani also said that he planned to convene a press conference to clarify the issue.
TV Names Man on Patarkatsishvili ‘Murder Plot Tape’
December 24, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; The Times Online; Kommersant, Russia
The man discussing a plot to kill business tycoon and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili with an alleged Chechen warlord has been former Interior Ministry official Gia Dgebuadze, a.k.a. Mastera, Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 TV reported on December 23. Nika Gvaramia, the Georgian deputy chief prosecutor, said he was unable to “either confirm or deny the information.” “We can give more details only after the tape is examined,” he told Rustavi 2 TV’s evening news. Meanwhile, Shota Khizanishvili, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said that Dgebuadze had been dismissed from the ministry in April 2007. The Sunday Times reported on December 23 that a covertly recorded audio-tape suggested that a plot to kill Patarkatsishvili had been plotted. The newspaper, which is owned by News Corporation – Patarkatsishvili’s partner in Imedi media holding – said that the tape (posted on the Times Online website), recorded last June, contained a conversation between Chechen warlord Uvais Akhmadov and an official from the Georgian Interior Ministry. Akhmadov, the Sunday Times reported, instead of going along with the plan, tipped off the tycoon’s allies about the tape. Patarkatsishvili, who spends most of his time between London and Israel, has refused to return to Georgia, citing the absence of government security guarantees. Meanwhile, the Georgian authorities have dismissed the allegations regarding Patarkatsishvili, saying they were an attempt to create the ground for “post-election destabilization.” “Badri Patarkatsishvili’s allegation that his murder was plotted is not the first of this type and [these allegations] are part of a pattern,” Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said. “But not a single allegation made by Patarkatsishvili has been confirmed… This is only interesting for us in so far as a pattern is observable… So tomorrow at noon we will convene a press conference and inform the press about the detail of this pattern.” Giorgi Baramidze, the state minister for Euro-Atlantic integration issues, said the speculation regarding Patarkatsishvili was more than a pre-election stunt. “This is aimed at preparing the ground for post-election destabilization,” Baramidze said in comments aired by Rustavi 2 TV. MP Pavle Kublashvili of the ruling party said that “disinformation” of this type was aimed at “increasing the political temperature in the country” and at distracting attention from the election campaign. “This in turn is directly linked to January 6 [an allusion to allegations that the opposition is preparing not for the January 5 presidential elections, but for post-election protest rallies],” Kublashvili said. MP Givi Targamadze said previous Patarkatsishvili allegations reminded him of statements made by ex-Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze, who was always claiming that terrorist acts were being plotted against him. “And we again see the very same people, including Valery Gelbakhiani [an Abashidze associate in the past and now head of the Patarkatsishvili campaign headquarters] and Giorgi Targamadze [director of political shows at Patarkatsishvili’s co-owned Imedi TV and a former Abashidze associate],” he added. The latest allegation surrounding Patarkatsishvili followed the release a few days ago by the Patarkatsishvili campaign of a video tape, wherein a retired Georgian colonel alleged that he had been forced to give false evidence against Patarkatsishvili. It was claimed that Georgian prosecutors were trying to build a case against the oligarch, based on forced false statements.
the article by the Times Online can be viewed at:
Georgian oligarch claims he is assassination target
December 24, 2007; Source: The Guardian, UK; Financial Times
A Surrey-based billionaire who is seeking to become president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia claims he is being targeted in an assassination plot. Badri Patarkatsishvili, who amassed a £6bn fortune from the privatisation of state industries in Russia in the 1990s, has hired lawyers including Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, after he received taped evidence of an assassin apparently being briefed to kill him. Methods discussed in the 45-minute audio tape included a plan to murder him in the UK or Israel, where he also has a home, or as he flies in his private plane from Tiblisi, the Georgian capital, to Batumi on the Black Sea. Patarkatsishvili also claimed that six to eight weeks ago a squad of four Georgians came to London, "sent to do something against me". Lord Goldsmith said yesterday Patarkatsishvili was taking the threat "very seriously". He added: "I am aware that he has given instruction to other advisers that police be informed of the threat. Debevoise & Plimpton has been retained to represent him and the managers for other investments in Georgia in connection with his presidential election campaign, protection of the campaign and the protection of assets in Georgia." Elections are due on January 5, but Patarkatsishvili has delayed his return to Georgia because he feels unsafe. He helped finance the "rose revolution" that swept the current president, Mikhail Saakashvili, to power four years ago. Then relations soured. Patarkatsishvili backed opposition protests in Georgia last month in which hundreds were injured and a state of emergency was called. Police stormed and took off air the Imedi television channel, which was founded by Patarkatsishvili and is managed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Standard Bank, a Georgian commercial bank which is closely linked to the tycoon, has been taken over by state administrators. Patarkatsishvili has described the current regime as "a dictatorial junta" and said in an interview last month: "My election slogan will be 'Georgia without Saakashvili is Georgia without terror'." He told the Sunday Times this weekend: "I have 120 bodyguards but I know that's not enough. I don't feel safe anywhere and that is why I'm particularly not going to Georgia." Patarkatsishvili claimed he heard about the plot to kill him 10 days ago. The taped conversation is thought to be between Uvais Akhmadov, a Chechen warlord, and an official in Georgia's interior ministry. According to transcripts published in the Sunday Times, the official described Patarkatsishvili as "a political problem" and said Georgia did not want to be seen to be involved in an assassination abroad. "Because of that I called you. This person is very frequently in London, constantly. In a month he'll spend two weeks there, two weeks in Israel. I've been given a clear order to check whether there is the possibility on your side to help us in this business ... "We want this person to disappear completely, with his escorts, with everything. So that everyone basically disappears." A spokesman for the Georgian embassy in London said the alleged plot "sounded like a conspiracy theory most probably designed to boost a presidential candidate's profile".
Patarkatsishvili Launches TV Ads
December 22, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
A presidential candidate and business tycoon, Badri Patarkatsishvili, launch TV advertisement campaign on December 22. Patarkatsishvili’s ad, which was aired by the Imedi television stations, co-owned by him, shows extracts from his address to thousands of demonstrators outside the parliament on November 2. The ad also shows pictures and footage of riot police breaking up protesters and it runs a slogan: “Georgia without Saakashvili; Georgia without terror.” Meanwhile, presidential candidate, Mikheil Saakashvili, who already runs an extensive political ad campaign, launched a new advertisement in form of a music video. The clip features a song – “Misha is Cool” - produced by Goga Khachidze, a governor of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, who was a member of a popular Georgian boy band in late 90s.
OSCE monitoring report faults Central Election Commission, but says election laws are adequate
December 24, 2007; Source: www.messenger.com.ge
An OSCE election observation mission released its first report on December 21, saying Georgia’s election laws are “generally conducive to the conduct of democratic elections, if implemented in good faith,” but raising concerns over allegations of campaign violations and last-minute amendments to election laws. “Such late amendments are generally inconsistent with good practice in electoral matters,” the carefully-worded interim report warned. Parliament approved a bundle of election law amendments on November 22. The observation mission noted the “highly polarized” election atmosphere in the country, documenting complaints from the political opposition about incumbent presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili’s alleged abuse of administrative resources and pressure on state employees, as well as government accusations that the opposition plan to protest the results of the election regardless of whether it is conducted democratically. The OSCE report also noted accounts of regional authorities recording data from voters’ ID cards without explanation. Georgians will be able to register as voters on Election Day by presenting their ID and proof of residence, a provision which a PACE monitoring committee earlier warned was a possible “avenue for electoral fraud,” but “reluctantly accepted” as necessary. Opposition campaigners say the harvesting of ID data may be done to help Saakashvili supporters vote multiple times on January 5. Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) was the target of the report’s clearest rebukes. In one instance, the CEC decided there was no violation of campaign laws when the Tbilisi mayor and a government minister joined Saakashvili for a campaign rally in Tbilisi City Hall. CEC officials have variously justified their decision by stating the mayor and minister did not make any campaign speeches at the rally; that Saakashvili had not been registered as a presidential candidate by the date of the rally; or that the two officials did not qualify as “public servants.” The OSCE report points out, however, that the law defines “public servants” as all officials, politically appointed or otherwise, working in public service. The report also contradicts another CEC ruling. CEC officials responded to at least two complaints of Saakashvili’s campaign abusing administrative resources by stating that, as Saakashvili has stepped down from the presidency and now holds no office, it would not be illegal for his campaign to benefit from administrative resources. The law, according to the OSCE report, forbids the use of state resources for any election campaign, regardless of whether the candidate holds political office. The report also acknowledges the controversial closure of Imedi TV, which returned to the air December 12, more than a month after it was raided by special forces troops for alleging inciting the overthrow of the state on November 7. The report observes that other networks broadcast similar statements and coverage that day, but without similar consequences. The OSCE is now monitoring all major television networks, and will release its findings in upcoming reports. No government officials were available for comment. Conservative MP Kakha Kukava of the opposition coalition, reached for comment Sunday evening, said his group was still preparing a statement on the report.
Watchdog Debates on TV Reporting
December 22, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge;
Rustavi 2 TV reports were at the center of the December 21 televised discussion of an informal watchdog group, monitoring journalistic standards in the broadcast media. The group consists of seven Georgian journalists and civil society and academic figures and is nominally chaired by a Polish activist-journalist, Adam Michnik, in absentia. During the discussions aired by the Georgian Public Broadcaster, six members of the group (Ghia Nodia was absent), noted that all the television stations had been observing a call for no appeals to violence, hate speech or slander – something the group had set as a priority. One of the members of the group, journalist Zviad Koridze, however, thought a Rustavi 2 TV report had stepped over the line. The P.S. weekly current affairs program, in a special on presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, interviewed a Kakheti farmer, who accused Gachechiladze of seizing his land. Koridze, although acknowledging that the journalist hadn’t actually made the allegation, said he had the impression from watching the program that the journalist had used the farmer’s words in such a way as to constitute slander. Fellow journalist and group member Davit Paichadze, however, thought the story less a case of slander and more one of biased reporting, as Gachechiladze hadn’t been afforded the right of reply. Gachechiladze, in response to the program, last week accused Rustavi 2 TV of “a black PR campaign” against him. As in last week’s discussion, the group again mostly focused on the more theoretical aspects of the media’s role. Davit Paichadze, for instance, raised what he called, “the visual context and visual bias” displayed by TV outlets in their reports on presidential candidates. “Saakashvili is always seen on TV either in front of a huge crowd, or in a narrow circle of people, usually showing him meeting with families to stress his direct contact with ordinary individuals,” Paichadze said. “We don’t see anything like this in respect of other presidential candidates.” Zviad Koridze noted that such hidden messages also took verbal form as well. He cited a Rustavi 2 TV report about Georgian soldiers serving in Iraq and Kosovo being allowed to vote. "The journalist concluded his report by saying: 'On January 5, like in all of Georgia, Georgian citizens in Iraq and Kosovo will also vote for their supreme commander and President'," Koridze said. Koridze thought this statement represented an encouragement for people to vote for Saakashvili.
Imedi TV Plans Exit Polls
December 24, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Imedi TV said on Sunday it had commissioned Dialogue for Development of Democracy to conduct exit polls for the January 5 early presidential election. No information about what Imedi called a “European foundation” was immediately available. Three other national television stations - the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Mze TV and Rustavi 2 TV - also plan exit polls. The stations have commissioned seven local research groups. Details are expected to be unveiled at a press conference on Monday. Meanwhile, Dialogue for Development of Democracy, according to Imedi TV, has already conducted public opinion research between December 17 and December 21. The survey showed, Imedi TV said, that 22.1% of the 2,100 surveyed would support Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, followed by Mikheil Saakashvili with 20.3%; Badri Patarkatsishvili (co-owner of Imedi TV) – 19.1%; Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the Labor Party – 6.5%; Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party – 4.9%; Giorgi Maisashvili, leader of Party of Future – 1.1% and Irina Sarishvili, leader of Party of Hope – 0.2%. The survey also showed that 21.7% still remain undecided, according to Imedi TV. The results are in sharp contrast to two previous separate public opinion polls published in December – one by the BCG, which was commissioned by the Saakashvili campaign, and another by ACT research group. Both are Georgian organizations. The BCG survey, which surveyed 13,000 respondents throughout Georgia in December, showed that 29.5% of voters were still undecided. 36.7% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze with 9.7%; Patarkatsishvili – 4.7%; Gamkrelidze - 3%; Natelashvili – 2.5%; Maisashvili and Sarishvili had less than 1% each. One percent said they would vote for none of the candidates. The survey showed that 63.5% of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsi shvili with 16.7% and 8.1%, respectively. According to the ACT research, which involved 1,500 respondents, 41% will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze – 11.1%; Patarkatsishvili – 6.5%; Natelashvili – 3.5%; Gamkrelidze – 2.1%; Maisashvili and Sarishvili - less than 1% each. 20.6% were undecided and 2.3% said they wouldn’t vote for any candidate. Of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates, 64% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsishvili with 17% and 10%, respectively. ACT said that its survey results were initially only available to the company’s “business clients and partners,” but following increasing criticism of public opinion surveys by some political groups, the results were eventually made public.
Levan Gachechiladze Leads in Poll Organized by Rezonansi Newspaper
December 24, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze from the United Opposition is leading in the poll organized the Rezonansi newspaper. 22,1% out of 506 electors have voted for Levan Gachechiladze, then Mikheil Saakashvili comes with 16,4%. Arkadi Patarkatsishvili is the third with 13,8%. Then Shalva Natelashvili and David Gamkrelidze come with 4,7% and 2,4% respectively. 23,3% stated that they didn’t know who they would vote for and 8,1% refused to divulge their choice.
New Rights release election poll results
December 24, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
The oppositional New Rights party, which is backing party leader Davit Gamkrelidze for the presidency, commissioned a public poll carried out from December 10–18. 1600 voters were surveyed in Tbilisi and other Georgian regions, according to the newspaper Alia. As has been typical in this campaign season, the polling results were released without an account of its methodology, leaving the conclusions entirely unverifiable. In stark contrast to similarly opaque polling commissioned by incumbent presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili’s campaign, the New Rights’ poll puts putative frontrunner Saakashvili at 22 percent, just slightly ahead of his nearest competitor, Levan Gachechiladze of the opposition coalition—and far below the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a run-off after the January 5 election. The New Rights’ poll places their candidate, Davit Gamkrelidze, third with 17 percent, and tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili fourth with 11 percent. 20 percent of respondents were undecided. Within Tbilisi, the New Rights say, Gachechiladze and Gamkrelidze both lead Saakashvili. All three candidates hover around 20 percent among voters in the capital, the poll suggests.
Opposition Expects Second Round of Polls
December 22, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
No presidential candidate is currently capable of winning over 50% of the votes necessary to win the election in the first round, Paata Zakareishvili of the opposition Republican Party said. “I am absolutely sure there will be a second round. None of the candidates has a 50% rating,” Zakareishvili told the Georgian daily Rezonansi in an interview published on December 22. “Saakashvili will definitely lose in the second round. So he is trying to win in the first round. It will be very difficult for Saakashvili and his team to concede victory and here our western partners should come into play and provide him with guarantees, while the opposition should clearly state that there will be no political persecution. There should not be any persecution for political mistakes, but [such a guarantee] may not cover criminal cases.” In contrast to Zakareishvili’s prediction, Givi Targamadze, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, said recently that he expected Saakashvili to take at least 60% of the popular vote. His optimism, he said, was based on the results of public opinion surveys.