|Georgian Daily News for December 27, 2007|
|April 02, 2008|
Headlines from Television News:
The Law Concerning State Budget of Georgia for 2007 is amended again. BLACK SEA PRESS was told it at the financial-budgetary committee of the Parliament of Georgia. Under the bill submitted in the Parliament for discussion, the revenue and grant prognosis totals GEL 5,104,3 million that exceeds the previously accepted one by GEL 8,7 million. The parameter of expenses remains unchanged – GEL 5,469,861 thousand. Tax entries in the State Budget remain unchanged and total GEL 3,676,1 million. The prognosis of non-tax entries totals GEL 732,6 million that exceeds the previous index by GEL 84,1 million. Under the reviewed privatization list of the objects, capital incomes make GEL 474,0, or by GEL 66,0 million less than the previously accepted index. Grants of the State Budget for 2007 are reduced by GEL 9,4 million and total GEL 221,4 million. The amount of funding the deficit of the State Budget is reduced by GEL 8,7 million and totals GEL 365,5 million. Under the draft document, funding of the Central Election Commission of Georgia is increased by GEL 9,176 thousand by the reason of pre-term presidential election. Funding of the Chancellery of the Government is increased by GEL 396,3 thousand, of the Agriculture Ministry – by 10,908,5 thousand and of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources – by 2,0 million. Funding of the Finance Ministry of Georgia is reduced in the part of service of external debt by GEL 12,068,3 thousand by the reason of economizing of the money paid to creditors. Corrections were made to the indexes of funding of the investment projects implemented with foreign money. In particular, co-funding of the projects is reduced by GEL 9,326,7 thousand and funding – by 7,436,1 thousand. Besides, GEL 6,350,3-thousand foreign grants to the ministries and departments are reflected in the expenditure part of the State Budget. Worth mentioning, the Budget was previously increased already thrice in 2007 – by GEL 600 million in June, by GEL 435 million – in September and by GEL 350 million – in November.
Georgian State Minister For Reforms Coordination: The Country Experienced USD 0.5 Billion Losses Due To Current Political Situation
Georgia has experienced USD 0.5 billion losses due to current political situation, Kakha Bendukidze, the Georgian State Minister for Reforms Coordination, told reporters on Wednesday. “We have lost the opportunity to attract investments in the volume of about USD 0.5 million due to the political situation. This will partially affect the next year but I believe that we will perform our social tasks (increase of pensions, employment, poverty reduction, etc.),” Kakha Bendukidze noted. According to him, the scale of investment decrease in the country will be significant though not dramatic.
Three new banks to open in Georgia next year
Imedi TV staff and management said the television station was “temporarily suspending” broadcasts in an attempt “to distance ourselves from dirty political games” and in protest against both its owner and the authorities. The announcement follows allegations that Imedi owner and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili was plotting a coup. Imedi TV has suspended broadcasts only two weeks after it was re-opened following a police raid on November 7. In a live televised address made from the Imedi TV studio, Giorgi Targamadze, head of the television station’s political programs, said that Imedi would resume broadcasts after the station had changed hands. “We are considering several options in order to allow the station to survive and the major [option on the table] involves transferring ownership to either the station’s staff or a respected group whose impartiality would be beyond doubt, and in this regard, we are considering our partner, News Corporation,” Targamadze said. He said this was “quite a real possibility” as consultations were already underway both with Patarkatsishvili and News Corporation, which, as he said, “manages the television station.” “But until the station’s legal status in respect of ownership is clarified, we are temporarily suspending broadcasts,” Targamadze said. “It does not mean shutting down the station; we are only temporarily suspending broadcasts.” “By doing so we are distancing ourselves from dirty political games. This is our protest both against the authorities, which have spared no efforts to blackmail Imedi TV staff and against the misunderstanding which the participation of the television station’s owner [Patarkatsishvili] in upcoming elections has caused. Scandal surrounding [Patarkatsishvili] has put the television station staff in an extremely difficult situation.” Targamadze’s comments were re-echoed by journalist Merab Metreveli, but in a much more forthright fashion. Speaking on behalf of the station’s news journalists, Metreveli said: “It is unacceptable for us how an Interior Ministry official was trying to arrange the murder of Badri Patarkatsishvili with a Chechen warlord. But, those methods by which Badri Patarkatsishvili tried to come to power are also absolutely unacceptable for us. We want to state clearly that such methods are unacceptable for us.” Earlier on December 26 six journalists from Imedi TV’s popular weekly program Droeba announced that they were quitting the station; some other journalists have also quietly quit the station. Targamadze said that he hoped Imedi would resume broadcasts "after New Year." He didn’t, however, say when exactly. Meanwhile, the Patarkatsishvili campaign office said in a statement that the suspension of broadcasts was as a result of “pressure by the authorities.” Givi Targamadze, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, however, said the decision was taken because “leading journalists decided to quit.” Mamuka Katsitadze, a lawmaker from the opposition New Rights Party, said that “Imedi TV, a free media outlet, has become a victim of violent confrontation between political forces,” a reference to the authorities and Patarkatsishvili. Meanwhile, Georgian PM Lado Gurgenidze said on December 26 that he would get in touch with News Corp., a co-owner of Imedi TV, to inform the company about the recent developments involving Patarkatsishvili. He also said that it was up to News Corp. to decide its future plans in respect of Imedi media holding. “But I do not rule out that in light of recent developments, News Corp. may be unwilling to continue [its involvement in Imedi TV]. Nothing is ruled out. This is no ordinary situation,” Gurgenidze said.
Nine-Party Coalition Comments on Recent Developments
Davit Usupashvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, has condemned what he called the illegal methods used by both the authorities and “other forces,” apparently referring to Badri Patarkatsishvili. Speaking on behalf of the nine-party opposition coalition, of which the Republican Party is a member, Usupashvili said on December 26: “We assess the recent developments as an attempt by the authorities to retain power through non-free and rigged elections, which they will then blame on another force, which as we have seen has been planning to change the government through the same methods.” “We have nothing in common with either of these forces,” he continued. “We are fulfilling the people’s order to change the government through free and fair elections. We are preparing for this and we call on everyone to express their position at the polling stations on January 5 and to change the government through elections.” The nine-party opposition coalition backs Levan Gachechiladze in the presidential race. Gachechiladze said a few days ago on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show that he would, if elected, accept Patarkatsishvili’s financial support to beef up state coffers. Davit Usupashvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, has condemned what he called the illegal methods used by both the authorities and “other forces,” apparently referring to Badri Patarkatsishvili. Speaking on behalf of the nine-party opposition coalition, of which the Republican Party is a member, Usupashvili said on December 26: “We assess the recent developments as an attempt by the authorities to retain power through non-free and rigged elections, which they will then blame on another force, which as we have seen has been planning to change the government through the same methods.” “We have nothing in common with either of these forces,” he continued. “We are fulfilling the people’s order to change the government through free and fair elections. We are preparing for this and we call on everyone to express their position at the polling stations on January 5 and to change the government through elections.” The nine-party opposition coalition backs Levan Gachechiladze in the presidential race. Gachechiladze said a few days ago on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show that he would, if elected, accept Patarkatsishvili’s financial support to beef up state coffers.
Suspension of Imedi Broadcasts No Surprise – Burjanadze
Suspending broadcasts by the Imedi TV was no surprise, as it would have been difficult for journalists to continue working there after they had seen covertly recorded video and audio tapes implicating television owner and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili in alleged coup plotting, Nino Burjanadze said on December 27. “The only thing I can say is that it became much easier to explain developments of recent two months now, including for those people who believed less in what we have been saying. These people will be able to analyze all these developments and find out what was behind those processes which brought the country to political crisis,” Burjanadze said.
PM Says Patarkatsishvili Can Remain a Candidate
Badri Patarkatsishvili, despite an on-going legal investigation into allegations that he has been involved in plotting to overthrow the government, will still be entitled to run for the presidency, Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said on December 27. Legal proceedings being taken against the business tycoon will have no bearing on his “legal status as a presidential candidate,” the prime minister told reporters. “So, he can remain a presidential candidate and continue his political activities in accordance with the law.” The prime minister also said that the suspension of Imedi TV broadcasts was an internal matter for the company. “I do not know when or how they will resume broadcasts," he said. "I hope Imedi will be back soon.” http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=16691.
Candidate Gachechiladze Lashes Out at Rustavi 2, Mze TVs
Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, lashed out at Rustavi 2 and Mze TV stations after journalists grilled him about his ties with another candidate, Badri Patarkatsishvili. “The only reason we had consultations with Patarkatsishvili was to convince him to withdraw from [the presidential] race; that’s all,” Gachechiladze told journalists at a news conference. He then slammed both Patarkatsishvili and Mikheil Saakashvili for “playing dirty games” and emphasized that the nine-party opposition coalition has “its own way, values and commitments” which have nothing to do with either Patarkatsishvili or Saakashvili. When a journalist from Mze TV asked whether his decision to, as the journalists put it, “disassociate” from Patarkatsishvili was as a result of the release of compromising video and audio tapes implicating Patarkatsishvili and his allies in an alleged coup plot, Gachechiladze replied angrily: “What decision are you talking about? We have not disassociated ourselves from anyone. Do not try – I mean Rustavi 2 and Mze TV – to stick us to someone; we have had our struggle, our way and our election campaign and we remain committed to our values and commitments.” “I want to ask, first and foremost, Mze and Rustavi 2: stop taking part in this dirtiness, otherwise many things will become clear about these two television stations after we come to power… I am not threatening you; I am just saying that Mze and Rustavi 2 always interrogate us like prosecutors do,” Gachechiladze added. Other leaders of the coalition at the news conference were quick to clarify that the remarks were addressed to Rustavi 2 and Mze TV owners and not specific journalists. The opposition regularly criticizes both of these stations, which are part of the same media holding company, of bias against them. Mze TV and Rustavi 2 TV are owed by Georgian Industrial Group (GIG) and GeoMedia Group. GIG, which owns a 45% share of both stations, is a giant company with diversified business interests ranging from coal mining and energy to travel. Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili’s brother, lawmaker Davit Bezhuashvili, has interests in the group. The remaining shares – 55% - in both Rustavi 2 TV and Mze TV are owned by GeoMedia Group. The only information available on the company is that it is registered in the Marshal Islands.
Gachechiladze Slams Saakashvili, Patarkatsishvili’s ‘Dirty Games’
Both Mikheil Saakashvili and Badri Patarkatsishvili are “playing dirty games” in an attempt “to thwart the election and discredit free media outlets,” Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, said on December 27. This was Gachechiladze’s first comprehensive statement made since covertly recorded video and audio tapes were released by the Georgian authorities, allegedly showing that tycoon and presidential candidate Patarkatsishvili was plotting a coup. The statement made at a news conference in Tbilisi on December 27 was an obvious attempt by the nine-party coalition to distance itself from Patarkatsishvili. The authorities have been claiming the bloc is cooperating with Patarkatsishvili in an effort to secure his financial backing. “That a dirty game between Mikheil Saakashvili and Badri Patarkatsishvili is taking place is quite obvious. We demand that both of them cease this dirty game and stay within the law. I call on the international community to investigate this dirty game,” Gachechiladze said. “This is a game aimed at thwarting the election, discrediting mass media and closing Imedi TV station. This is a game aimed at putting an end to Georgia and we, the United Public Movement [the nine-party opposition coalition], will never allow this to happen. We will not allow anybody to put our country in a losing situation. We continue our struggle for January 5 [election day]. We continue our struggle to come to power. We will defend every vote; we will defend it appropriately, because the Saakashvili regime should be ended once and for all. This dirtiness should end in this country.” He also called on supporters to gather at a rally planned for December 29 at Rike, an open area in downtown Tbilisi.
Candidate Gamkrelidze Speaks of Patarkatsishvili’s Mistake
Davit Gamkrelidze, a presidential candidate and leader of the New Rights Party, said business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili had made a mistake in becoming so actively engaged in politics. “It was a mistake for Patarkatsishvili to get involved in politics so actively, because he is the owner of Imedi television station and journalists have felt uncomfortable because of it. I think it would have been better for him if he had distanced himself from politics,” Gamkrelidze said in remarks aired by Rustavi 2 TV. Gamkrelidze's remarks, given the New Rights' unsuccessful attempt to persuade Patarkatsishvili to run on the party's ticket in last year's election for the Tbilisi mayor’s office, come somewhat as a surprise. http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=16678.
He has faith and strength, but does he have the votes?
Profile: Davit Gamkrelidze
43-year-old doctor, entrepreneur, parliamentarian and oppositional New Rights leader Davit Gamkrelidze promises “new life and new thinking” if elected president. “We have faith in God, and we have the strength,” his campaign slogan declares. And Gamkrelidze says the country will need those—and him—for the long, difficult path ahead.
First foray into politics
A shift to business
The New Rights
Leader of Labor Party of Georgia Called on Foreign Ministers of EU to Assure Saakashvili to Withdraw from His Idea to Become President for Second Term
Presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili from the Labor Party of Georgia calls on foreign ministers of the EU member states to assure Mikheil Saakashvili to withdraw from his intention to take part in the January 5 presidential elections. Shalva Natelashvili made the mentioned statement in Tbilisi on December 27. “The whole state resources, including law enforcement structures have been put into action to provide the victory of Saakashvili and they are carrying out political pressure, falsification, repressions, murders and terror. All this will definitely cause in the state the huge confrontation with irreversible outcomes. After this the interference of our friends may occur delayed”, Shalva Natelashvili noted. Because of this Shalva Natelashvili called on the Presidents of the EU member states to immediately send their foreign ministers to Georgia to start consultations with Saakashvili to assure him to withdraw from the upcoming elections. ‘I call on my friends – foreign ministers of the EU member states and everyone who considered Mikheil Saakashvili a lighthouse of democracy in Eastern Europe to urgently to arrive in Tbilisi till January 5 and to nhold consultations with the terrorist and dictator to assure him to take part in the elections. Through this we will get rid of the destabilization and the explosion in not only Georgia, but in the whole region”, Natelashvili noted.
U.S. Envoy on ‘Coup Plot’ Tapes
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft said on December 26: “While we do not intend to comment on the specifics in the tapes recently released by the Government of Georgia, we believe this is a serious situation.” The U.S. diplomat was referring to video and audio recordings which suggest that presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili and some of his political associates were plotting a coup. “It is important that elections proceed and the people of Georgia are allowed to vote freely without coercion or intimidation,” Ambassador Tefft said in a statement. “The Georgian people need to be able to express their views and chose their government on January 5, 2008. We are happy to note that international monitoring of the elections will be in place. We have complete confidence in the ODIHR and OSCE monitoring of elections. They represent a clear international standard of election monitoring.”
Georgia: In Gori, Voter Lists Still Cause for Controversy
Always cause for controversy, Georgia's voter lists are again setting off debate in one of the country's most politically sensitive regions, Shida Kartli. Updates to voter lists were supposed to be completed by December 22, but the wrangle over list management in this region, which neighbors the South Ossetia conflict zone, shows little sign of dying down soon. The setting, though, is one of deceptive calm. In a narrow room with one computer in a building on Stalin Street, the central thoroughfare in Gori, Shida Kartli's administrative center, five district election commission members sit dealing with appeals and paperwork from 85 precincts and 94,000 registered voters. Aside from commission makeovers, recent election code amendments have resulted in new precincts and redefined precinct boundaries. Urban precinct commissions now handle a maximum of 1,500 voters each, down from 2,000. But Shida Kartli district election commission members affirm that the changes have not interfered with election preparations. Magi Abashidze, one of four Central Election Commission trainers holding workshops for precinct election commission members in the Gori region, said that problems on polling day are not anticipated. "Every step of every member in commission is described in detail [in training materials], so I hope there won't be problems, but, of course, we can say it for sure only after January 5," said Abashidze. Tamar Zurabashvili, the chairperson of one precinct commission located in a Gori school building, says that voter activity has been unprecedented, with individuals regularly coming to check and see if their names are present on the precinct's voter lists. Rather than voter lists, Zurabishvili said that her chief concern is whether voters will know why they will have three ballots on election day - one for the presidential vote, one for a plebiscite on the parliamentary election date, one for a plebiscite on Georgia joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "The members of the commission should be mobilized, but also the voters should be informed before they come here, " Zurabashvili said. So far as the presidential vote goes, one Gori resident asserted that attention has been keen. "We have different people supporting different candidates, but I think that most people's choice will depend on the promises of the candidates because ordinary people do not have a job and are living in hardship," commented Paata Sopromadze, owner of a small secondhand store in downtown Gori. Sopromadze, like some other Gori residents, expressed confidence that the vote would be fair, but his assurances are not shared by the opposition. The Gori office manager for lead opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze argues that various tactics are being used in Shida Kartli to prepare for a skewed vote in former President Mikheil Saakashvili's favor. Levan Terashvili alleges that, aside from voter intimidation, voter passports are being seized by local police and government representatives and that voter lists are "overflowing" with names of people who are either dead or do not exist. He did not identify these individuals by name. Similar views have been expressed by opposition members in other regions of Georgia. Mamuka Paniashvili, head of the Shida Kartli office for candidate Davit Gamkrelidze's New Rights Party, claims that the voters' list contains "about 15,000 errors." "According to our commission members, in every district in the region there are names of people who left Georgia about ten years ago or people who passed away a long time ago," said Paniashvili. A door-to-door campaign run by the Central Election Commission this past fall and much touted as a remedy for incorrect voter lists has not corrected the problem, Paniashvili and other opposition activists allege. "There are people who, according to the list, live in the ProCredit Bank building, in a wine factory and even where the city government is located," said Paniashvili. Gori district election commission chairperson David Aduashvili, however, calls the errors in the list "insignificant," noting that the mistakes do not go higher than 1 percent of the total voter lists. Moreover, he continues, the opposition should acknowledge that it carries part of the blame for such errors, too. "Opposition party members were also involved in the door-to-door program, so if there are any mistakes it is their responsibility as well," Aduashvili said. In Shida Kartli's Kaspi district, not far from Gori, the number of registered voters has increased by roughly 18.7 percent since the 2006 local elections; the highest increase in the region, according to election watchdog ISFED. Gachechiladze campaign worker Khatuna Tatanashvili puts it down to stuffing the lists with "dead souls."… But some ordinary Shida Kartli residents say they have not heard of any such incidents. Gori private school teacher Nana Antelava says that she has been visited by ruling United National Movement Party representatives who gave her a party magazine (The Way toward Democracy, already the subject of a voter bribery dispute for including free tickets to an amusement park in a recent issue) and her husband, a pensioner, a form letter from candidate Mikheil Saakashvili. The encounter, though, she said, was uneventful. "They asked me whether I support Saakashvili, but didn't insist on reply and left when I told them that I will make my choice on January 5," Antelava said.
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