Headlines from Television News:
- A staff reshuffle is expected in the Georgian government. Mikheil Saakashvili, presidential candidate representing the United National Movement talked about possible changes during the December 27 statement on “Prime Time” talk-show of Rustavi-2 broadcasting company. Today various governmental officials confirmed yesterday's statements but disclosed no other details as under what conditions would human resources be changed. Reportedly, consultations are already underway and other specific details will become public only after the inauguration of Georgia’s new president following the presidential elections of January 5, 2008. Nino Burjanadze, Georgia’s acting president stated that in case Saakashvili was re-elected president, changes would be made in both the governmental and parliamentary ruling team.
- A public movement “Moral Front” expresses distrust towards exit polls financed by 4 local TV stations of Georgian Public Broadcasting, “Rustavi-2,” “Mze,” and “Adjara.” Nukri Kantaria, member of the movement declared during today’s press conference that they had serious grounds to consider these exit polls as biased. According to him, exit polls are carried out according to authorities’ order. The “Moral Fund” applies to various democratic institutions and the office of Human Rights for immediate reaction.
- Young supporters of Levan Gachechiladze, presidential candidate of the United National Council of oppositional forces presented by the political union “Tavisufleba” (Liberty) accuse the United National Movement of fostering violence. Representatives of the Equality Institute, NGO, who participated in a talk-show “Prime Time” hosted by journalist Inga Grigolia on Rustavi-2 broadcasting company on December 27, were severely beaten by activists of the National Movement. Reportedly, 8 members of the Equality Institute were physically assaulted on the nearby territory of TV station after the program. Jaba Jishkariani, member of the Equality Institute called Georgia’s Justice Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili a Saakashvili’s slave and PM Lado Gurgenidze – demagogue in live broadcast.
- Levan Gachechiladze, presidential candidate of the United National Council of oppositional forces presented by the political union “Tavisufleba” (Liberty) has called on Mikheil Saakashvili, presidential hopeful of the United National Movement, for open debates. Gachechiladze held a press conference today. He accused Saakashvili of insincerity and invited him to his electoral headquarters. Gachechilade also reported that the authorities were preparing some of ‘dirty TV coverage’ against him and his supporters. The oppositional presidential candidate demanded that impartial Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) was appointed and blamed two local TV companies “Rustavi-2” and Georgian Public Broadcasting for bias. Gachechiladze urged Mikheil Saakashvili to free televisions from violence and political influence.
- Various media researches prove that equal air-time is assigned to all presidential candidates, who are standing in the upcoming snap presidential elections of January 5, 2008, and that equality principle is maintained. Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgia’s Justice Minister, who is also head of the governmental working group of holding fair elections, reported during today’s press conference. “The information provided about presidential candidates is balanced and unbiased reports are broadcast on all TV stations,” Tkeshelashvili claimed.
Parliament of Georgia Approved the State Budget For 2008
December 28, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press; Prime-News Business
Today, the Parliament of Georgia approved today the Law Concerning State Budget of Georgia for 2008 at the extraordinary session. Under the document, prognosis of the revenue part made GEL 5 155.4 million. In 2008, the tax prognosis was increased by 51.1% and made GEL 4,506.0 million. The prognosis of grants of the State Budget for 2008 makes GEL 176.1 million. Prognosis of other revenues is fixed as GEL 473.3 million, i.e. 105.4% of the prognosis for 2007. The expenditure part of the State Budget will make GEL 4 563.4 million. Total balance of the State Budget makes GEL 275.0 thousand that is the profit of the State Budget. Total appropriations of the State Budget make GEL 5 705.2 million. The appropriations include the funds for expenses, for both financial and non-financial organizations as well as for operations with liabilities. In 2008, the State Budget is more oriented for funding of social fields (compared with the previous years). Funding of social welfare makes GEL 1,048.9 million, of health care – GEL 269.7 million, of economic operations – GEL 559.2 million, of rest, culture and religions – GEL 91.1 million, of education and fundamental research – GEL 448.1 million, of defense and security – GEL 1,923.3 million. The Budget is calculated on the ground of real GDP growth in 2008 by 6%, nominal GDP growth by 14.5%, on 8% inflation and on $2,800 GDP per capita.
Amendments to the State Budget of Georgia for 2007 Approved In Parliament
December 28, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The Law Concerning State Budget of Georgia for 2007 was approved at the today’s extraordinary session. Under the document, 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. The amount of funding the deficit of the State Budget is reduced by GEL 8.7 million and totals GEL 365.5 million. 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 221.7 million. Under the 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.
Lado Papava: State Budget for 2008 Is Not First Proficient Budget of Georgia
December 28, 2007; Source: Prime-news Business
The State Budget for 2008 is not the first proficient budget of Georgia, Lado Papava, a member of Parliament, stated at the special plenary sitting of Parliament on Friday. Lado Papava greets specification of the supply part of the budget for 2008 on new methodology but supposes that specification of any budget index is to be carried out on the same methodology. “The supply of the budget is specified in GEL 5,705 billion according to old classification. According to the new classification that except for article of expenditure envisages capital expenses and other financial resources registration in the supply part of the budget profit will make up GEL 275 000, in the case of old methodology use deficit would have reached GEL 189 million. If we follow this principle budget of the previous yeas were profitable as well,” Lado Papava noted. According to the bill, the inflation rate will make 8% in Georgia in 2008. Economic growth of the country will make 6%, while the GDP per capita will amount to USD 2 800. In accordance to the bill “On State Budget of Georgia for 2008”, revenues of the budget will make GEL 5,155 million, including tax returns of GEL 4,005 million, while expenses will make GEL 4,563 million. It is planned to generate GEL 312 million as a result of privatization. At the same time capital expenses will make GEL 903 million. Total expenses in 2008 will reach GEL 5,507 million.
Georgian Finance Minister: GDP Volume Will Reach USD 15.6 Billion In 2009
December 28, 2007; Source: Prime-news Business
Volume of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will reach USD 15.6 billion in 2009, Nika Gilauri, Deputy Minister of Finance of Georgia, stated at the special plenary sitting of Parliament on Friday. According to the minister, the abovementioned index will make up USD 19.8 billion in 2010, USD 25 billion –in 2011 and USD 30 billion -in 2012. According to the bill “On State Budget of Georgia for 2008”, GDP volume will make up USD 2,800 per capita.
During 9 Months of 2007, Deficit of the Current Account of the Balance of Payment of Georgia Totaled $1,185.8 Million
December 28, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
During 9 months of 2007, deficit of the current account of the balance of payment of Georgia totals $1,185.8 million that is by 38% more than in the same period of 2006. BLACK SEA PRESS was told it at the National Bank of Georgia. Goods trade is the most deficit component of the current account. Red ink of it has made $1,850.7 million that is by 25.4% more that during 9 months of 2006. Service balance in January-October 2007 is positive, and it totals $198.2 million that is by 35.6% more than in the same period of 2006. During 9 months of 2007, positive balance was fixed in the revenue part and it made $7.7 million. Revenue balance in the same period of 2006 made $102.8 million. During three quarters of the current year, current transfers are rather significant. They partially compensate, together with the service balance, the deficit conditioned with the trade balance. During 9 months of 2007, transfers balance totals $459.5 million that is by 25.8% more than in the same period of 2006. Accounts of the capital during three quarters of 2007 total $96.4 million that is by 14.5% more than in January-October 2006. The amount of direct investments in the economy of Georgia during 9 months of 2007 totals $1,054.6 million that is by 46.1% more than during 9 months of 2006. Black ink of portfolio investments totaled $23.3 million in the reporting period. Compare: black ink for 9 months of 2006 totaled $23.6 million.
Vakhtang Baladze Appointed Deputy Chairman of Georgian Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee
December 28, 2007; Source: Prime-News Business
A member of “National Movement” parliamentary faction Vakhtang Baladze was appointed the Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee, stated Irakli Kovzanadze, the Chairman of the Committee. Vakhtang Baladze will replace Lado Papava on the abovementioned post as the latter has retired from the position after leaving the parliamentary majority faction.
Plebiscite Results May be Binding
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Plebiscite results on the timing of parliamentary elections, due to be held on January 5, will be binding according to a draft constitutional amendment unveiled on December 28. The proposed plebiscite question is: "do you agree or not to hold parliamentary elections in spring?" The elections, in accordance with the constitution, are scheduled for sometime between October and December 2008. Plebiscites generally - unlike referenda - are non-binding. The proposed draft constitutional amendment would only apply to this particular plebiscite and its results. The proposed amendment will be discussed in late January, according to Vice-Speaker of Parliament Mikheil Machavariani, and if approved, will retroactively apply to the January 5 plebiscite. An amendment envisaging the reduction of the current 7% election threshold to 5% is also expected to be discussed in late January.
Watchdog Plans Parallel Vote Tabulation
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Election watchdog group, New Generation – New Initiative (nGnI), said it would conduct parallel vote tabulation (PVT) for the January 5 early presidential elections and plebiscites. PVT entails counting votes simultaneously with officials from precinct election commissions. nGnI will conduct PVT in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Gori, Akhaltsikhe and Zugdidi. Another election watchdog group, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), also plans to conduct PVT.
Saakashvili to Replace ‘Revolutionary Team’
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Mikheil Saakashvili said he no longer needed “a revolutionary team” and vowed, if re-elected, “to fundamentally reshuffle” his political team and make it “more all-inclusive.” Speaking live on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show after midnight on December 28, Saakashvili named three cabinet members, who would definitely not be affected by the anticipated reshuffle: Koba Subeliani, the minister for refugees and accommodation; Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister; and Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze. He refused, however, to be drawn on whether other key figures in his administration, who have been the focus of much opposition criticism, would remain in position. There have in particular been calls for the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili; Kakha Bendukidze, the state minister in charge of economic reforms; and lawmaker Giga Bokeria. Saakashvili said his intentions would be made known the day after his presumed presidential inauguration. He did, however, say a new mandate would give him “the moral right to replace” even some of his closest allies. “And they know it too and there is full consensus on this issue within our team,” Saakashvili said. “Everyone agrees that renewal is needed and everyone agrees that fundamental changes are needed.” “So, I need a mandate, a big mandate, from my people to carry out a fundamental reshuffle of the current political team. Many of them will find a new place, some of them will be moved to [other positions] and others will resign. I will need a team which will be focused on fighting poverty, on creating new jobs and which is capable of understanding each and every individual’s difficulties and problems; I need a team with one heart, but a professional heart. He said that “fundamental changes” were needed to ensure that the country moved onto a new stage of development after the presidential election. “A reshuffle is needed, because my team, which was established four years ago, was a revolutionary team, very passionate and vigorous; very many decisive actions were needed and sometimes very sharp and sometimes even painful actions were needed to be undertaken,” Saakashvili said. “But now I need a team, which will be more professional, which will be more sober-headed and much more concentrated and much more all-inclusive… with professionals regardless of their age… There are many people in lower level [management] whose performance has been excellent and who should be promoted. But there are some whose performance has been poor and I have noticed it, so there will be a serious reshuffle.” Saakashvili's comments follow a similar pledge on December 22 to affect changes at the highest levels. At that time he also promised to jettison his hard-line style. A day earlier, Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, also signaled a post-election shake-up.
‘United Georgia in NATO in Next Presidential Term’ – Saakashvili
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Mikheil Saakashvili, a presidential candidate, said Georgia will become NATO member and will be united during his second presidential term if re-elected in the January 5 early polls. He, however, said joining EU would be impossible in this term. “I know that we will join NATO during my second presidential term,” he said while speaking in a live late-night political talk show aired by Rustavi 2 TV. “I know that we will – although we may not become EU members and I can tell you directly that we won’t be able to become EU member – get very close to European structures. I do not want anyone to ever speak about Georgia as of second-rate country.” He has also said: “I will leave united Georgia to a next president.”
‘Okruashvili My Biggest Mistake’ – Saakashvili
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; Trend Information Agency, Azerbaijan
“Okruashvili was my biggest mistake,” ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who runs for re-election, said referring to his once closest ally and former defense minister. Saakashvili’s remark followed after he was asked at the late night political talk show at Rustavi 2 TV what was his biggest mistake. Okruashvili currently is in custody in Germany, where he was arrested in late November following a Georgian request for his extradition. The German courts must make a decision on the matter before January 6. Meanwhile, Okruashvili’s lawyer Eka Beselia said on December 27 that her client appealed to the French authorities for granting him a political asylum. Appealing the Fresh side, she said, was more a technical aspect of the case, as Okruashvili arrived in Europe with a visa issued by the French embassy in Tbilisi. Okruashvili launch his opposition party on September 25 but he was arrested two days later and charged with large-scale bribery through extortion, money laundering and negligence while serving as minister. Later, he was released on GEL 10 million bail. On November 1, Okruashvili, according to the General Prosecutor’s Office, was allowed to travel to Germany “for medical treatment.” Okruashvili, however, subsequently alleged that he had been forced onto the plane and sent to Germany against his will.
Tycoon Exits Georgia's Presidential Race
December 28, 2007, Source: Wall Street Journal
A business tycoon's withdrawal from the race for the Georgian presidency shows the growing risk that early elections could fail to return the Caucasus nation to stability, whether or not the vote is free and fair.Badri Patarkatsishvili said yesterday he was pulling out of the Jan. 5 vote, because he needs first to clear his reputation amid claims he was plotting a coup. This week, Georgian authorities released a videotape of Mr. Patarkatsishvili's campaign manager apparently offering a senior Georgian interior ministry official $100 million to order his men to co-operate with organized mass street protests and to arrest and, if necessary, kill Georgia's interior minister to seize control. The campaign manager also made it clear the protests would go ahead even if international observers declare the election fair. The offer of $100 million "is absolutely true," Mr. Patarkatsishvili said in a telephone interview from Israel, saying his sole aim was to avoid the kind of violence seen when the government used tear gas and rubber bullets to clamp down on opposition protests last month. "It would have been worth any amount of money. I was paying so that people would not be shot." A second tape showed the same Georgian official meeting Mr. Patarkatsishvili in London. The two men again discuss how to arrest the interior minister. Told that "someone may die," Mr. Patarkatsishvili says on the tape: "We are not children; I fully understand what we are talking about." Mr. Patarkatsishvili denied government allegations of a coup plot, saying the police official was trying to blackmail him with the threat of violence against demonstrators. The video tapes, which Mr. Patarkatsishvili says were organized to entrap and discredit him, contain no obvious evidence of a blackmail effort. Georgia's then president Mikheil Saakashvili called next week's early election in an effort to help restore the country's battered democratic credentials after the government's crackdown on opposition protesters last month, when it also forced two opposition TV stations off the air. One of those TV stations is majority-owned by Mr. Patarkatsishvili, who is reputed to be Georgia's wealthiest man. Western diplomats see restoring stability to Georgia as vital, in part because the country has become a key corridor for energy routes from the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea. Georgia, led by the U.S.-educated Mr. Saakashvili, was also seen until last month as a bright spot in the region for the development of Western-style democracy. After the November crackdown, Mr. Saakashvili stepped down and called early elections to defuse public anger against him. But the election campaign increasingly has focused on the day after the vote, when opposition leaders say they may call people into the street to contest the result. Mr. Saakashvili leads in most opinion polls, but appears unlikely to win the 50% plus one vote needed to win outright and avoid a second-round runoff between the top two finishers. Mr. Patarkatsishvili's decision to withdraw came a day after senior journalists resigned from the Imedi television station he co-owns with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., after Mr. Patarkatsishvili effectively acknowledged the veracity of the tapes to staff. On one tape, Mr. Patarkatsishvili's campaign manager also describes the role Imedi and one of its managers were to play in post election events. The government closed Imedi during November's crackdown, saying it had played a part in a coup attempt, but under international and domestic political pressure allowed the station to reopen earlier this month. The journalists said pressure resulting from Mr. Patarkatsishvili's battle with the government was making their jobs impossible. News Corp., owner of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, took the station off the air Wednesday. News Corp. declined to comment. In recent polls Mr. Patarkatsishvili was third among the dozen or so candidates registered, but his scores had been rising. With him out of the running, next week's election looks like a two-horse race between Mr. Saakashvili and the main joint opposition candidate, Levan Gachechiladze. But the risk of street protests and violence remains high. "If the government continues to pressure the opposition as it is now, I expect a protest from the people," said David Usupashvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, which supports Mr. Gachechiladze. Georgia's government has invited hundreds of international observers to monitor next week's vote, in an effort to show the country remains committed to developing a Western-style democracy. With Imedi closed again, opposition candidates have lost a key platform for their campaigns. Mr. Usupashvili and others claim widespread intimidation by police and local authorities. Georgia's government has closed several businesses in which Mr. Patarkatsishvili has an interest, including Standard Bank, which it said was being taken into administration to restore liquidity. Its shareholders, British private-equity fund Salford Capital Partners Inc., deny liquidity problems and hired a heavyweight U.S. law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, to regain control of the bank. Mr. Patarkatsishvili, who made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s, has run his campaign from outside Georgia, amid fears for his safety. On Sunday, The Sunday Times of London, also owned by News Corp., posted on its Web site an audio tape from June 2006 in which a Georgian interior ministry official purportedly asks a notorious warlord from neighboring Chechnya to kill Mr. Patarkatsishvili. Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the interior ministry denied any plot and said the official concerned was fired in April this year for "gross misconduct," which included working with Mr. Patarkatsishvili. The authenticity of the tape couldn't be independently verified.
Patarkatsishvili Out of Presidential Race
December 27, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; EurasiaNet; Black Sea Press; Prime-News; Interpressnews
One day after the television station he founded announced it was temporarily going off the air controversial Georgian tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili has withdrawn his candidacy from Georgia's presidential race. The decision follows widespread media speculation that Patarkatsishvili would opt for such a move after the release of audio and video recordings that the government alleges indicate that he was planning to stage a coup after the January 5 vote. The announcement from Patarkatsishvili's press office came in the early evening on December 27, and details were not available. Recently appointed campaign manager Giorgi Zhvania, brother of the late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, had announced on December 26 that he was flying to London to discuss, among other topics, the possibility of Patarkatsishvili pulling out of the election. The decision comes one day after an announcement by Imedi television, established by Patarkatsishvili in 2002, that it would "take a pause" during the election campaign. The station returned to the air on December 12, more than a month after being shut down for alleged use by Patarkatsishvili as "a tool" in a supposed attempt to overthrow the administration of then President Mikheil Saakashvili. Citing government pressure and political "dirty games," Director of Public and Political Programming Giorgi Targamadze announced during Imedi's December 26 evening broadcast that the station's journalists have been the "targets of pressure and blackmail by the authorities," especially since officials released secret video tapes this week, allegedly documenting Patarkatsishvili and his associates in the act of planning a coup for January 6. Patarkatsishvili has denied any plans to illegally overthrow the government. "We want to confirm that during the last month and a half, each of us, including our family members, have become the targets of pressure and blackmail by the authorities. During the past two days, the TV channels controlled by the authorities have created absolute hysteria that puts our staff under extremely difficult conditions," Targamadze said. Imedi General Director Bidzina Baratishvili stated that the station management would use the time off to repair damage from the November 7 closure. The future ownership of the station would be determined while Imedi was off the air, he said. Speculation has also run rife in recent weeks about whether Patarkatsishvili would sell his remaining shares in Imedi Media Holding, which oversees both Imedi televison and radio, to either News Corporation, which currently manages the company, or to the Georgian government. According to Georgian media reports, at least six journalists from Imedi have left since the authorities released video footage on December 24 showing a discussion between former Patarkatsishvili campaign manager Valeri Gelbakhiani and Interior Ministery Special Operations chief Erekle Kodua about protests on January 6. Levan Vapkhadze, a producer for Imedi's popular news magazine program Droeba (Times), would not tell EurasiaNet if he himself had felt or seen any signs of pressure from the authorities. "I will not comment on that," he said, adding that it would be "better" to ask those who had left. "I will stay at Imedi if it resumes broadcasting," Vapkhadze said. "It is hard to say what will happen." Ghia Nodia, a political scientist and member of a media monitoring group formed in the wake of Imedi's November closure, said that he believed the station's decision for a temporary closure had come in response to the number of journalists leaving Imedi for other stations. Nodia argued that there was no sign of overt state pressure on Imedi since the station's news coverage of the government since its December 12 re-opening had been "critical." "It was kind of calm, but it was critical so I did not see...any pressure," he said, adding that he "suspects" there might have been indirect pressure from officials who "encouraged" journalists to find other jobs. Targamadze said that the station's closure was temporary and that Imedi would resume broadcasts after the January 5 election. "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," he said. However, opposition leaders like Davit Usupashvili worry that even a temporary closure will be too long. Usupashvili, a leader of the Republican Party which is one of the nine parties in the united opposition, told EurasiaNet that he is "concerned" that the remaining television stations will not give the opposition fair coverage before the elections. Other than Georgian Public Broadcasting, which is financed by the government, Georgia has two national broadcasters, Mze and Rustavi-2, which the opposition sees as biased towards the government. "We are all very upset about this development," he said, noting that now the authorities are trying to connect the nine-party opposition coalition with Patarkatsishvili. "We will answer all possible questions...[but] we don't think we will get enough objective coverage of our arguments [on the remaining television stations]." According to Nodia, election coverage to date has been fair. "Objectively, of course, when Imedi is off the air it is a less pluralistic media," he said. "But if we measure how the election campaign has been covered by the media so far...mainly it is balanced." …
Opposition candidate quits Georgian presidential race?
December 28, 2007, Source: Russia Today
The Georgian media tycoon and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili said he is ready to withdraw his candidacy. A blow was dealt to his campaign when he was accused by the government of plotting a coup. Patarkatsishvili left Georgia in 2006 and has not returned since even after he joined the presidential race.
"To be the president of a country one should have a totally clean reputation, that's why I am pulling out of the presidential election," Patarkatsishvili stated. On Tuesday the Georgian authorities released a secretly recorded conversation between Patarkatsishvili and a top interior ministry official. In the tape, Patarkatsishvili appears to offer the official $US 100 MLN to help him stage unrest after the January 5 poll.The tape has caused outrage in Georgia. The government accused the businessman of fomenting the unrest in Tbilisi on November 7, when police clashed with demonstrators and a TV channel owned by Patarkatsishvili was raided and closed. Almost two months later, they say they have been proved right. Following the scandal, other opposition groups hurriedly tried to distance themselves from the tycoon in spite of the fact that only weeks ago they were prepared to accept his donations. "It is quite obvious a dirty game between Mikhail Saakashvili and Badri Patarkatsishvili is taking place. We demand that both of them stop it and stay within the law. I call on the international community to investigate," presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze said. With Patarkatsishvili out of the race, only six contenders remain in the January presidential election.
Patarkatsishvili Nominally in Race
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; Black Sea Press; Prime-News
Despite announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race, business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili will not officially ask the Central Election Commission (CEC) to strike his name off the list of presidential candidates until January 4, just one day before polling day. Giorgi Zhvania, head of the Patarkatsishvili campaign HQ, said despite the decision to withdraw from the race, Patarkatsishvili and his allies would continue “the political fight” to achieve victory for “democratic forces.” Zhvania, who returned from London on December 28, where he met with Patarkatsishvili, also said that Patarkatsishvili’s team hoped “any candidate from the democratic opposition” would win in the January 5 elections. He did not, however, give a preference. “Questions and suspicion have been raised about Mr. Patarkatsishvili among the population, so in these circumstances he decided to withdraw from the race,” Zhvania said. He was referring to covertly recorded audio and video tapes, which add weight to official allegations that Patarkatsishvili and his allies were planning post-election unrest and plotting a coup d'etat. Despite ending his campaign, Zhvania said the Patarkatsishvili campaign headquarters would remain operational. Kote Gabashvili, a ruling party lawmaker and chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said Patarkatsishvili’s decision to nominally remain in the race was a continuation of his “negative manipulations.” “By doing so he is actually giving the go-ahead to his campaign HQ to continue their negative campaigning,” he said on December 28. PM Lado Gurgenidze, speaking on the same day, dismissed the move, saying it was made by “a marginal candidate,” and was of “little importance.” Patarkatsishvili announced his intention to withdraw from the presidential race on December 27. “Today the opposition leaders actually demanded that I and Saakashvili withdraw from the presidential race. I am meeting their demand,” he said in a written statement issued by his press office. Later he released a video, in which he reiterated the same point. “I am ready to stop my election campaign and to inform the Central Election Commission that I am no longer contesting the election. This is not a difficult decision to make, because I have never put my own interests above those of the state. I thank everybody who believed and still believes in me. They will not be disappointed. I will keep all my promises given to the Georgian people. I have no doubt that the Saakashvili regime will be defeated.” Earlier on December 27 Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, said both Saakashvili and Patarkatsishvili were “playing dirty games” in an attempt “to thwart the election and discredit free media outlets.” And a day earlier, 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, Patarkatsishvili, and the authorities. Many leading Imedi journalists had earlier quit. All these developments came after the Georgian authorities released compromising video and audio tapes implicating Patarkatsishvili and his allies in an alleged coup plot. The audio tapes purport to show Patarkatsishvili offering USD 100 million to a top Interior Ministry official, Irakli Kodua, in exchange for - among other things - “neutralizing” Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. Patarkatsishvili, in the same statement issued on December 27, tried to explain the tapes. “I wanted to pay money to prevent the authorities from firing on my people, while they [the authorities] planned to pay money to have me killed,” he said. Patarkatsishvili had earlier released an audio tape, in which his assassination was allegedly discussed and planned by a Georgian Interior Ministry official and a Chechen warlord.
If Elections were Held Next Sunday, Most Electors would Vote for Levan Gachechiladze – Exit-Poll
December 28, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The special presidential elections in Georgia will be held by two rounds. Such conclusion was made by officials of the Ukrainian information-analytical center “Common European Affair” which held the exit-poll concerning the forthcoming elections in Georgia. The respondents were asked one question : “If the elections were held next Sunday whom will you vote for?”. Levan Gachechiladze was supported by 30.8% of respondents. For Arkadi Patarkatsishvili would vote 17.6%. For Mikheil Saakashvili who stands in the elections for the second term would vote 16.5%. Shalva Natelashvili would get 6.9 % of votes, David Gamkrelidze – 4.5%, Georgi Maisashvili – 1.3% and Irina Sarishvili – 0.2%. Their choice have not determined 18.3% of respondents, and 3.9% will not participate in the elections. During the exit-poll which was held on December 19-26, 2,400 persons were asked. The Common European Affair” notes that a statistic mistake of the choice did not exceed 3%. While commenting results of the poll, president of the center Leonid Belousov stated that “results testify to the fact that in Georgian presidential elections will be held by two rounds as no one of candidates gets more than a half of electors’ votes”. “A sharp confrontation character is one more peculiarity of the present campaign. In such conditions as a rule the opposition gets points, but the power is ready to take any measures to be in power. It is important for the citizens not to permit a force scenario of the election campaign as democracy in Georgia and in the whole Caucasus depends on the fortune of the elections”, Belousov noted. The Ukrainian information-analytical center “Common European Affair” does not inform on whose order the exit-poll was held in Georgia.
Authorities Attack Nine-Party Coalition over Patarkatsishvili Ties
December 28, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
In an attempt to capitalize on recent scandal involving Badri Patarkatsishvili, the authorities mounted emphasize on the nine-party opposition coalition and its presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze’s past ties with controversial business tycoon, who announced on December 27, that he would withdraw from the presidential race. “There was one political force, which was saying that it was holding political consultations with Patarkatsishvili and the society knows it because it was publicly said; this force is Gachechiladze’s team,” Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister, said while speaking in a late night political talk show aired by Rustavi 2 TV on December 27. She then recalled recent statements of Levan Gachechiladze and his allies about Patarkatsishvili. “Several days ago we heard Gachechiladze saying that he would use Patarkatsishvili’s finances [in case of election as president] to fill, as he said, empty state coffers. Next day the position has changed and they [the nine-party opposition coalition] started saying that they are not at all interested with Patarkatsishvili and started to disassociate themselves from him. Today they announced that all these recent developments were the result of “dirty political games” between Patarkatsishvili and Saakashvili. But even today one of the member of this coalition, Giorgi Khaindrava, continues saying that Patarkatsishvili was is and will be his friend and this differences of opinion about Patarkatsishvili within the coalition is in itself a source of concern,” Tkeshelashvili said. Levan Gachechiladze said on December 27 that both Mikheil Saakashvili and Badri Patarkatsishvili were “playing dirty games” in an attempt “to thwart the election and discredit free media outlets.” 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. On December 26, Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, said on behalf of the coalition that the bloc was condemning what he called the illegal methods used by both the authorities and “other forces,” apparently referring to Badri Patarkatsishvili. “We have nothing in common with either of these forces,” he said. Late on December 24 Levan Gachechiladze said while speaking in the Rustavi 2 TV political talk show that he would use Patarkatsishvili’s finances to beef-up “empty coffers.” In early December a group of politicians from the coalition visited London where they met with Patarkatsishvili. “We are interested in having free and transparent elections and in coordinating our campaigns,” Davit Usupashvili, one of those who met Patarkatsishvili in London, said on December 8. On December 28 the nine-party opposition coalition stated that the only issue they have been negotiating with Patarkatsishvili was to convince him to withdraw from the presidential race.
Main Priorities of Foreign Policy of Georgia in 2008 will Remain European Integration and Accession to NATO
December 28, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The main priorities of the foreign policy of Georgia will remain to be the European integration and the course aimed at accession to NATO. This fact was emphasized by Foreign Minister of Georgia Gela Bezhuashvili in the exclusive interview to BLACK SEA PRESS agency. “Georgia’s integration into European institutions through enhanced cooperation with the European Union will continue to be a cornerstone of our foreign policy in the coming year. The European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan will remain the principle framework for this partnership”, Bezhuashvili noted. Among the many benefits of deeper relations with the European Union will be the easier movement of people and goods across borders. Trade is one of the most important aspects of Georgia-EU cooperation; we therefore hope to reach agreement on a Georgia-EU free trade regime in the near future. Along with trade liberalization, we also will aim to establish a simplified visa regime with the EU. Given the increasing level of cooperation between the Union and Georgia, as well as our determined efforts to meet European standards, we believe such an agreement will soon be reached, the Foreign Minister of Georgia said. A simplified visa regime has been made more urgent by the detrimental effects on Georgia’s conflict zones of a similar agreement between the EU and Russia that went into effect in June; as a result, Russian passport holders in the separatist territories have gained an unfair advantage in being able to travel more easily to the EU than holders of Georgian passports. International cooperation is of crucial importance in safeguarding our shared European values. As such, integration into the organizations that promote and protect these values is the top goal of Georgia’s foreign agenda. In this respect, accession to NATO is one of the top priorities of Georgia’s foreign and security policy, he pointed out. For 15 years, we have had a fruitful partnership with the Alliance. In that time, Georgia graduated from being a mere consumer of security. We have proven our worth as an important contributor to international security by participating in peacekeeping efforts around the world. This, coupled with our successful domestic reforms, allows us to believe that we are ready to upgrade our cooperation with NATO via a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Therefore, securing a favorable political decision regarding MAP remains Georgia’s principal foreign policy goal for 2008, Gela Bezhuashvili stressed.