In brief, News

Maestro appeals for people to stay the night

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - As police peeped in through his locked studio door, Maestro TV's producer Mamuka Glonti appealed to viewers Wednesday evening to come to Nutsubidze Street 83 and stay there overnight, in order to prevent that he and the others who are hauled up inside the studios are evicted. He said that he believes that if enough people don't stay outside Maestro's building overnight, it is highly likely that the TV station will be overtaken during the night, and that will be the end of the station in its present form.

News

Ossetian opposition sets up camp in Tskhinvali

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Winner of the South Ossetian de facto presidential elections Alla Dzhioyeva has appealed to the region's supreme court with a request to have yesterday's decision to annul the election overturned. South Ossetian news agency RES reports that Dzhioyeva's appeal was delivered to the de facto supreme court chairman Acamaz Bichenov. Her appeal will be considered tomorrow. Alla Dzhioyeva demands that the de facto supreme courts changes its decision made yesterday which annulled the results of the second round of the so called presidential elections. The court made this decision after reviewing the appeal of supposed Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov's Edinstvo party. Bibilov appears to have lost to Dzhioyeva by a clear margin. In front of South Ossetia's de facto governmental building, where the Central Election Commission is also located, Dzhioyeva supporters have been gathered Wednesday, vowing not to leave, despite security firing warning shots. There are reports of a tense situation in Tskhinvali. According to Tskhinvali media, South Ossetian police have twice fired warning shots and this way prevented Dzhioyeva's supporters from breaking into the government building. Dzhioyeva herself was let into the building, ...

News

Shots fired in Tskhinvali

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Russian news agency Ria Novosti Wednesday reported shooting on the main square in Tskhinvali, the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia. Supporters of the Alla Dzhioyeva, the appearant winner of the so-called presidential elections, are protesting against the region’s Supreme Court decision to annul the results of the elections. The government’s security fired warning shots to stop the crowd from breaking into the government building, the news agency reports. Alla Dzhioyeva was allowed to enter the building together with Anatoly Barankewitch, former de facto defense minister. There are no injured, as the shots were only fired as a warning. Ria Novosti quotes a source from the so-called presidential administration saying that there are nearly a thousand supporters of Dzhioyeva gathered on the square. The situation was still tense Wednesday at noon. Supporters weren’t able to enter the building and were staying at the square. On Tuesday the so-called South Ossetia’s Supreme Court annulled the results of the elections and scheduled new early elections for March 25, 2012. According to the preliminary results of the so-called Central Election Commission in Tskhinvali region, Alla ...

Opinion

Maestro – the channel that doesn’t lie

by | November 30, 2011

It might sound like stating the obvious when a TV company markets itself by saying 'we are the ones who don't lie to you'. But in Georgia, it is not a given that TV don't fabricate news. It is actually the easiest way to set yourself apart from the current national networks. Georgia has in recent years been criticized for the situation in the field of television. All three national stations are today widely seen as loyal to the government with a narrow style of reporting not covering the full range of what is happening in society. What more is, they sometimes air things that are simply made up. In such an environment, to not lie is the way to set you apart from the others. Maestro TV has been picking up on ongoing events in the capital, and gradually over the whole country, under the slogan that it is the station which doesn’t lie and is only controlled by its viewers. Journalists have vigorously defended the motto of being independent. It was for a long time run with little resources and showed the ...

Media, News

‘Government wants to shut down Maestro’

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The crisis continues at independent Georgian TV station Maestro, as suspicion is growing that the interference is politically motivated. Financier Bidzina Ivanishvili for the first time came to Maestro’s studios Tuesday evening for a live conversation on a regular discussion program called Pirdapiri Saubari (Direct Talk). Wednesday morning before daylight, the station's manager broke in and demanded to have journalists assembled in order to instruct them, on the premise that Maestro was devoting too much air time to Ivanishvili. Staff refused to take instructions from a politician, and the crisis developed. Many see this as a repetition of what happened to Imedi TV, once admired in Europe for its independence, but today seen by most as fiercely pro-government. It was stormed by police in November 2007, and then was subject to a questionable financial takeover ultimately decided in the courts. At Maestro studios the nervous atmosphere continued Wednesday afternoon as the producer kept alive an emergency broadcast behind locked doors while police prevented most of the station's journalists and staff from entering. Broadcasting was cut off for several hours earlier, but staff is ...

Media, News

TV station under siege!

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Journalists at Maestro were pacing nervously around in the TV station’s yard Wednesday afternoon, still physically prevented by police from entering their studios to reestablish normal broadcasting. Inside the studios, behind locked doors, producer Mamuka Glonti was leading an emergency broadcast with a few other journalists and technicians, who managed to enter before police sealed the studios. Mamuka Glonti, the journalist who co-founded Maestro, says that when the stations wealthy financier, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, entered the building early in the morning, a Maestro employee called for the police. But instead of helping the journalists, the police sided with Kitsmarishvili and physically prevented the journalists from entering and carrying out their work. Early in the morning, Kitsmarishvili said he is in his full rights to intervene with the channel’s editorial policy. He fired three of the top people: Mamuka Glonti, co-founder and current producer, the general director Ilia Kikabidze and Levan Chikvaidze. Kitsmarishvili said that these people have a share in Maestro, so they were fired in terms of their role as employees, and not as shareholders. Maestro journalists have released a statement about ...

Media, News

2007 rerun! Independent TV taken off air

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - An independent TV station in Tbilisi was taken off air Wednesday morning, the day after businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili was on live from their studios. Police have surrounded their studios and most journalists are not allowed in, but the station's director and a few journalists are inside,broadcasting short updates. Many regard what is happening as interference in the work of the media and as a response by authorities to a new political reality after Ivanishvili declared his wish to enter politics. The crisis at Maestro TV started when current manager, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, also a well-known politician, broke into their premises Wednesday morning before work had started and tried to arrange a meeting with the staff to give instructions. When the staff refused to take instructions, saying they would not be influenced by a politician, Kitsmarishvili declared he was firing the station's producer Mamuka Glonti, its director Ilia Kikabidze and one other in the management, effective immediately. Glonti, who also owns part of the station, is disputing Kitsmarishvili's right to fire him. During the scuffle, a Maestro employee called the police, who upon ...

In brief, News

Young lawyers concerned about press freedom

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) supports the Press Association rally Tuesday and says Tbilisi City Hall is worsening the conditions of the print media’s distribution system. GYLA says that the organization thinks that the government has a positive obligation to support freedom of the media; which first of all is to get rid of the direct or non-direct factors intervening in the spread of the free word. “GYLA shares the Press Association’s concern regarding the fact that holding a tender to locate booths, in the form which the City Hall is now doing, is nothing more than restricting the spread of newspapers and magazines in an indirect way.” “It is unacceptable to grant the right to sell food products and newspapers-magazines under identical conditions and without treating them differently. Due to information spread by the Press Association, the City Hall decision has negatively impacted the circulation of print media and significantly damaged the press, which is already in a very difficult condition,” GYLA’s statement says. GYLA considers it of vital importance that there will be an adequate reaction from City Hall ...

In brief, News

Republicans also against newsstand scheme

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republican Party expresses solidarity with distributors and publishers of print media and joins the Press Association in its demands. The party released a statement Tuesday saying that it protests against Tbilisi City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks. “Tbilisi City Hall’s decision several weeks ago about the location of booths turned out, as expected, to be the next instrument of attack against the press and small business. We have been opposing this decision since the very first day, because it serves to monopolize this sector and root out small business. In addition we demand from City Hall that they publish statistical data of already conducted auctions, and also specific information about the companies and individuals which have been granted the several years right to locate booths on the territory of the capital,” the statement says. It is quite clear to the decision-makers that the distributors of newspapers will never manage to really compete with food, cigarette or lottery companies, the statement explains. “Everybody knows that a ‘special’ place in this segment is held by Kezerashvili’s company and the government leaves ...

In brief, News

Walked 250 km for democracy

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Three supporters of the Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili walked for five days and nights to support his right to get back his citizenship. The ordeal started in front of Gelati, a church in Western Georgia vested with religious and historical significance, and ended at the Trinity cathedral in central Tbilisi. Ivanishvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship four days after announcing he would enter politics to remove the current government lead by Mikheil Saakashvili. Georgian legislation bars a non-Georgian citizen from engaging in any kind of political activities or finance any political parties in the country. Supporters of Ivanishvili have gathered signatures from all over the country demanding that his citizenship is restored. Luka Kurtanidze, several times world champion in wrestling, director Soso Jachvliani and writer Merab Shatirishvili expressed this demand in a different way – with a special action. They walked on foot for five days and nights from Gelati, which is located in the city Kutaisi in the western part of Georgia, to the Trinity cathedral in the center of Tbilisi – a distance of more than 250 kilometers. The demonstration participants ...

News

Looming specter of turmoil in Tskhinvali

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The dreaded specter of new unrest in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia has not abated, as the Supreme Court cancels the presidential elections as fraudulent and the authorities announce new elections in Spring. According to the news agency RIA Novosti, Amiran Diakonov, chairman of the de facto legislative committee, said that the de facto parliament of South Ossetia has already set a date for new so-called presidential elections for March 25, 2012. The court made the decision as a result of an appeal by the Edinstvo party of supposed Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov. The official results of Sunday’s second round have not yet been published, but according to preliminary results, Alla Dzhioyeva won the elections decisively; despite the fact that her opponent Anatoly Bibilov was considered the Kremlin favorite. According to the last report published by the so-called Central Election Commission (CEC), Dzhioyeva got 16% more votes than Bibilov. Anatoly Bibilov is seen as a conductor of the Kremlin’s interests, which according to local media is more of a problem than a boon, because there has been increasing discontent with the ...

Media, News

Georgian press makes a stand

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian publishers, journalists, editors and others rallied in front of Tbilisi’s City Hall high rise Tuesday to protest against a new plan to replace the capital’s newsstands. The project is called ‘1000 Booths’ and will according to representatives of the media involve removing most of the newspaper sales points which have been a part of the city’s pulsating life for years. Some are simply a portable rack, brought along in the morning and removed in the evening. Others are small permanent booths affiliated with a chain. The process to remove old newsstands has already begun. City Hall explains that the agreement with the newspaper distribution companies had expired, but the companies say that they have repeatedly appealed to the City Hall to prolong the contracts but they kept explaining there is no appropriate law for this process. The problem is that the newspaper subscription system is not popular in Georgia. People get their daily newspapers from the newsstands. Taking them away will effectively make the press inaccessible to people. Not only representatives of print media, but many other media units participated in ...

Opinion

Reasons Behind Unjustly Low Monetary Compensation for Victims of Soviet Era Repressions

by | November 29, 2011

Monetary compensation, awarded to victims of Soviet political repressions and/or their heirs through national court proceedings, has remained one of the most widely discussed issues in Georgian society for more than a year. Not long ago, even “Rustavi 2,” Georgia’s most watched TV network, dedicated a special report to the subject during one of its popular news programs - “Kurieri.” The report reflected the reparations programs in a largely positive light by emphasizing the generosity of the State towards the victims of soviet era repressions. According to the “Kurieri”, victims (or their heirs) are granted between 200 and 500 Georgian Lari in reparation by domestic courts. However, in reality the decisions of the national courts have caused vast frustration among potential beneficiaries and questions remain as to what is the reasoning of the courts in defining the appropriate amount of monetary compensation. It must be mentioned, from the outset, that the right to monetary compensation for these victims remained illusory for more than 10 years, until the February 2, 2010 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR hereinafter) ...

In brief, News

Tskhinvali’s election commission gagged

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The election commission in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has been forbidden by the supreme court from announcing any more preliminary results after Sunday's election. The region is on the verge of conflict, as a standoff is developing between the region's supreme court and central election commission (CEC). Tensions grew after it became clear that the opposition's candidate Alla Dzhioyeva seems the clear winner with 57 per cent of votes in the CEC's last announcement Monday afternoon. Supposed Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov received only 40 per cent. After the announcement, the region's supreme court has forbidden the CEC from announcing more election results, South Ossetian news agency RES reported. Tuesday morning, the Russian news site Lifenews.ru is reporting that the situation could escalate into a civil war. It claims to have information that the supreme court might dissolve the CEC. If the CEC is dissolved, there will have to be assembled a new election commission, and a new election will have to be held. Bibilov has claimed that the election was fraudulent.

In brief, News

Kiosk owners asked to boycott censorship plan

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Coalition for Freedom of Choice expresses solidarity with the print media regarding a new system for kiosks in Georgia’s capital which is threatening the newspaper sector and calls other booths owners to join in. “We call for all persons interested in City Hall’s so-called ‘1000 Booths’ tender: to express a civic and social position and do not participate in the tender for locations where there are already standing or until November 25 had been standing newspaper stands. There are only 150 such stands in Tbilisi. If you keep this firm position it will give the opportunity to persons who have sold newspapers for years to participate in the tender and keep the same locations where they’re working now. This way you will support the free media.” “Here we want to request representatives of the press to publish in their editions which locations are the same as the locations of existing newspaper kiosks. We acknowledge that some of the governmental businessmen may still participate in the bidding for the above-mentioned locations, either as businesses or as individuals. In this case, ...

In brief, News

Saakashvili’s opponent joins press protest

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili expresses solidarity with the Georgian Press and is joining them in a protest outside Tbilisi City Hall on Tuesday at 2 pm. “Under the cover of a project called ‘supporting small and medium sized enterprises’, the government attacked the free Georgian print media. We think that the City Hall decision to stop newspaper kiosks’ activity is directed not against ‘uhealthy competition’, but against press freedom, freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia,” the statement released by the businessman’s press office says. Georgian Press Association is organizing a protest rally to be held in front of Tbilisi City Hall on November 29, against City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks in the city. This might seriously threaten the newspaper sector because it strangles their main distribution channel – street sale.  

In brief, News

Media coalition joins protest

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Coalition of Media Advocacy is expressing its solidarity with Georgian newspapers which are facing a dire threat of having their distribution virtually strangled. The Coalition said in a statement they too will attend Tuesday’s rally in front of Tbilisi City Hall at 2 pm, along with representatives of the press to protest against city hall’s new kiosk plan. Tbilisi City Hall recently announced a tender within a project called “1000 Booths”. Most of the new booths within the scheme will be placed at locations where there have been newspaper kiosks for a long time, either run by chains or individual vendors. Over the last few days, some of these have been forced to leave. “Newspaper distribution is a problematic issue in Georgia. Announcing a tender for newspaper kiosk locations will make the situation even more difficult, because it will significantly restrict the distribution of magazines and newspapers. We think newspapers, magazines and books are particularly important products for society and it is preferable to have a healthy competition among the distributors of printed media, but not between newspaper distributors and ...

In brief, News

‘Not an election’

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “What is happening in the Tskhinvali region can not be called elections,” Davit Bakradze, Georgian Speaker of Parliament said Monday at a parliamentary session to discuss the developments in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. Alla Dzhioyeva and Anatoly Bibilov were pit against eachother in the second round of the de facto presidential elections November 27. According to preliminary results, Dzhioyeva is heading for a decisive victory, but the final results won’t be announced for another five days. Meanwhile, Tskhivali authorities are mobilizing riot police in anticipation of civil unrest when the results are announced. In the first round November 13, Alla Dzhioyeva was declared the winner by French news agency AFP and others, because she seemed to have a clear margin, but when the final results were published she was a fraction of a per cent behind assumed Kremlin favorite Bibilov. Bakradze claims that the elections are illegitimate and that the position of the international community remains the same. “An election means expressing the people’s choice and position. While thousands of our co-citizens aren’t given the opportunity to return to their ...

In brief, News

Saakashvili’s opponent allowed to start movement

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press office Monday announced that the Public Registry has finally registered the movement ‘Georgian Dream.’ An hour earlier, they announced that the Civil Registry had refused to register Georgian Dream. “An hour after releasing the [first] press statement the Civil Registry registered the public movement 'Georgian dream'. This information was published on the civil registry website today at 15:04,” the statement says. ”We remind you once again that we have been waiting for a reply from the Civil Registry confirming the registration confirmation since November 24." Ivanishvili’s press office notes that it has taken longer than normal to get an answer from the registry. “Civil Registry was obliged to register the public movement ‘Georgian Dream’ at the same day of the appeal (24/11/2011); or inform the appealer of the shortcomings in the documents,” the press-office special statement says. At the beginning of October the Georgian businessman unexpectedly announced that he is entering politics to set up a political movement with the aim of forming a government after parliamentary elections in October 2012. A few days later Bidzina Ivanishvili’s ...

News

Watchdog body pushes for progress in ‘Batumelebi case’

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Giorgi Tugushi, Georgia’s Public Defender, asks the chief prosecutor to study information provided by the newspaper Batumelebi. Batumelebi, which is published in the western city of Batumi, November 20 revealed the identity of a policeman who they say tried to blackmail one of their journalists in 2009. In huge letters proclaiming "Found!" the paper exposed Davit Devnozashvili as the police officer who November 25 two years ago presented journalist Tedo Jorbenadze with black and white photos of naked men, insisting that the journalist was one of the men in the photos. He threatened that if the journalist didn’t cooperate with the police he would publish the photos. The case caused concern about pressure being exerted against free press, but until last week investigation had been stalled. But on November 20, Mzia Amabglobeli, director of Batumelebi newspaper, spotted the policeman in front of his house and recognized him. She called for police, who came the place together with investigators. But she claims they didn’t fill out any kind of documents upon arriving. Today’s statement published on the Public Defender’s website ombudsman.ge says ...

News

Tskhinvali beefing up security for election results announcement

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - In Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia people are waiting for the results of the second tour of the de facto presidential elections. Early results indicate that opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva is heading for victory. According to Bela Plieva, chairman of Tskhinvali’s de facto Central Election Commission (CEC), elections have been completed and final results of the vote count will be ready in five days. Before the elections Russian media were predicting that Anatoli Bibilov would win at the expense of Alla Dzhioyeva, the former Education Minister and opposition leader, who received slightly fewer votes than Bibilov in the first round on November 13. Eleven candidates participated in the first round. 17 had originally registered as candidates, but six of them withdrew their candidacy before the elections. Finally, Anatoli Bibilov ended up almost in a tie with Dzhioyeva, but a fraction of a percent ahead with 25.44% against Dzhioyeva’s 25.37 %. Anatoly Bibilov was called a Kremlin favorite by Russian press from the start. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Bibilov’s candidacy was supported by the Russian regional ministry and the ...

News

Press to picket Tbilisi City Hall

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Representatives of Georgian press are planning a demonstration in front of Tbilisi City Hall on Tuesday, November 29. Their demand is for the City Hall to stop harassing the free press. This comes after Tbilisi City Hall began to take away press newspaper booths in the capital, which is the main distribution channel for free press in the country. Subscription is not functioning effectively as a means to distribute newspapers, and street sale is vital for the press to survive. The print media considers the new tender to establish a chain of kiosks as an attempt by City Hall to destroy the print media, which is widely regarded as a stronghold of free speech in Georgia. While the press is mostly free, the national TV stations are by most commentators seen as under the control of the government, despite legislative changes to bring more openness in terms of media ownership. There are a few small independent TV stations, but they have so far not been allowed to broadcast to all of Georgia, and are therefore confined to the capital and ...

News

Is harassed businessman Fady Asly?

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The businessman who was harassed by Georgia's Revenue Service last week is Fady Asly, Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of Georgia and President and CEO of Agritechnics Holding. Georgian daily Rezonansi reported this in its Monday edition, Mteli Kvira. It is the head of Georgia's Association for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Giorgi Isakadze, who claims this. The revelation came in parliament Friday as the leader of the opposition Christian Democrat party scolded president Mikheil Saakashvili's government for being engaged in a campaign of harassment against private business. Giorgi Targamadze said a person who is the leader of a business organization based in Georgia, and also head of one of the largest companies in the country, was harassed by the Revenue Service two days after he testified in a closed committee meeting with parliamentarians. Isakadze, who was present at the committee meeting, says that only two people talked about a particular tax issue at the meeting: he and Fady Asly. The background was how to deal with tax debts. The Christian Democrats have suggested to raise the limit ...

In brief, News

Opposition leads in Tskhinvali

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Oppositional candidate Alla Dzhioyeva is leading and might win the second round of the election in Georgia's breakaway region South Ossetia. At 2 am counting showed she had more than 51 per cent of the votes, while alleged Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov fell significantly behind with 46 per cent. This is a clearer difference than in the first round when the two were head to head. But the outcome is still hanging in the balance, because only 43 of 85 districts had completed counting. Dzhioyeva is the sole female in the breakaway region's election to find a successor for de facto president Eduard Kokoity. She is seen by many seen as an oppositional figure, though another candidate,  Dzambulat Tedeev, had a stronger standing among Tskhinvali's opposition earlier on. He was however prevented by authorities to register as a candidate. Dzhioyeva also seemed to be beating Bibilov in the first round of the election on November 13, but final results showed she fell behind with just a fraction of a per cent, both receiving a quarter of the votes cast.

News

Appeal to civil society, the government, the diplomatic corps and interested persons!

by | November 27, 2011

We, representatives of the Georgian media, regard the Tbilisi City Hall project “Promotion of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises” as having nothing to do with the development of small and medium sized business and creating jobs. It is directed at the destruction of the existing system of distribution of print media and poses a real danger to the free media. We want to emphatically note that the government has repeatedly tried to get the free press under control during the last years. In these days, some of the newspaper kiosks have been forced to seize their activities, under the pretext of holding a tender. The last moves by the Tbilisi City Hall are already impacting the circulation numbers of Georgian print media. All of these create serious financial problems for the magazines and newspapers and hinder the exercise of freedom of speech to reach the public. We regard these steps as a decision counter to the country’s development, the public interest, the media and democracy. We, the undersigned call for and demand of the Tbilisi City Hall to stop the steps made against ...

News

Georgian mine claims 13th victim

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A miner died Thursday morning following an accident in a coal mine in Tkibuli in the central region of Georgia. Miner Sergi Ashotia died after a wall collapsed. This is the 13th death in the same mine in the last two years. Early comments indicate that the reason for the accident was a massive mine concussion, but the official reasons will only be clear after an official investigation has been carried out. “Massive concussion, massive concussion – they keep saying the same things. It’s very difficult to determine if a concussion’s really happened. How can it happen so often? It’s just a convenient reason to give,” - Viktor Dolidze, chief technical inspector of Georgian Trade Union, says. Sergi Ashotia was a very experienced miner, according to the Trade Union spokesman. “The whole brigade shift that night was very experienced. Sergi was seriously injured in the accident which happened on August 27, 2010. He was badly burned,” Tamaz Dolaberidze, leader of the Metallurgical and Mining Industry Workers’ Trade Union says. According to him, a representative from the Trade Unions will sit in the commission studying ...

News

Claims of harassment by Revenue Service

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Christian Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze claims that Georgia’s Revenue Service harassed the head of one of the country's largest companies. Two days before, the person had suggested to the government had made suggestions regarding liberalization of the system to handle tax disputes in a closed session between parliamentarians and business council members. He claims the representative of the business-unit had sent a letter to president Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze and to Targamadze himself, right before the incident. He didn’t specify the identity of this person. The Christian Democrats leader said his party for a long time have been asking to raise the limit for criminal liability for tax debts from 25 000 to 100 000 lari, which would have avoided the situation leading up to the incident. “This wasn’t only our idea. An appropriate proposal was coming from the business community. One of the people who had spoke in this same building at the business-council session, writes me a letter and this letter is also on the tables of the president, the prime minister ...

In brief, News

‘Georgia world leader in fighting corruption’

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The whole world is taking note of how Georgia is tackling corruption, at least according to Prime Minister Nika Gilauri. While answering questions in parliament Friday he said that the whole world is learning from the methods Georgia is using to fight corruption. The comment came during a debate regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’, which was held at the initiative of the Christian Democrats. Gilauri qualified his claim by pointing out that the World Economic Forum has established a task force to deal with fighting corruption which will make recommendations for G20 countries. He noted that the group consists of international experts, journalists and representatives of Interpol, while he is the only representative of a country in the group. “The whole body of work that are the Georgian reforms should be suggested to the international community to decrease the level of corruption in other countries,” the prime minister said.  

In brief, News

‘Access to Russian market crucial’

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Christian Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze says that improving relations with Russia is crucial to Georgia’s economic development. The statement came during a debate in parliament Friday about the government’s ’10 point plan’, a debate his party had called for. Targamadze said, if investments are the most important factor for the country’s economic development, then providing security and stability should be the government’s main concern. But this issue is not even mentioned in the ten-point plan. According to him, the free industrial zone in Poti is not functioning today, because there are Russian tanks standing a few kilometers away. “If your goal is to attract more investments, then we should achieve a stabilization of the relations with aggressive neighbors and minimize the risk for investors. And not the opposite, as you and the media created hysteria when Patriarch visited Russia. We have put this person in an awkward situation and this hysteria is unacceptable for the goals, which foresees creating security guarantees for the investors,” Targamadze said. According to him, the negotiations about a Russian WTO membership has opened new opportunities to enter ...

In brief, News

PM: Tourism is booming

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “Georgia is the main tourist country in the region and we will see better results in the next few years,” Nika Gilauri, Georgian Prime Minister told lawmakers Friday at a debate about a ’10 point plan’ recently announced by the government. Gilauri said the tourism sector has even better results to show than the government had expected. “We didn’t expect that during two years in a row we would have 40% growth in tourists and visitors. But our aim is to increase the number of tourists to minimum 5 million until 2015 year,” the PM remarked. According to him, tourism development is the best way to create employment, and the government is doing everything to achieve this. “Representatives of 100 countries arrive here without visa; we run tourism advertising campaigns; we have direct flights to 29 cities and we continue working on this. There will be investment in Kopitnari [a village in western Georgia] airport; Poti [a city on the Black Sea coast] airport will be built by the end of next year. We have negotiations with budget airlines about coming ...

In brief, News

Doubts about gov’t employment plan

by | November 26, 2011

Parliamentary faction Christian Democratic Movement demands that the government presents statistics about an employment program implemented before the elections in 2006. Levan Vepkhvadze, representative of the Christian Democrats made this statement at a debate in parliament Friday regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. The plan was brought in during the campaigning period ahead of the local elections in 2006. Within the frameworks of the plan, two hundred thousand unemployed were ‘attached' to private enterprises and were paid 200 lari each as ‘salary’ from the state for a three month period. Vepkhvadze brought up the five-year old program because the government now has a new initiative, which excempts people from 45 to 60 years old of income tax for one year, if they are able to find work within a six months’ window of time. Vepkhvadze is sure that the new initiative, just like the first one, is targetted only at harvesting votes and not increasing employment. “Let the government present appropriate statistics for the 200 000 people, which were involved in the employment program in 2006 and received 200 lari for three months. How ...

In brief, News

PM: ‘Thousands of investors coming’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri claims that “hundred and thousand times more investors are planning to come into Georgia”, because they trust Georgia more than Eastern Europe countries, Greece and Italy. He made this statement in parliament Friday at a debate regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’ held at the request of the Christian Democrats. The Prime Minister said a Standard & Poor’s report indicated that the country has moved forward. “Because of this single report, hundreds and thousands times more investors are going to come to Georgia who have big amounts of money, and they cannot invest in the traditional countries at the time, because of various reasons, and they’re looking for new markets,” the Prime Minister claimed. “Our Eurobonds are traded on more than the Eastern European countries’ Eurobonds.” This indicates an increased trust in Georgia, according to the PM. “So the trust of the international investor is much higher towards Georgia, than towards Eastern European countries, towards Greece or Italy,” Gilauri said.  

In brief, News

‘Elite corruption’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Jondi Baghaturia, representative of the parliament faction Unity for Justice and the leader of the Georgian Group Party accuses the government of creating monopolies in the country and protecting these monopolies. He made this statement at in parliament Friday. The political debates were held at the request of the Christian Democrats and revolved around the government’s ’10 point plan’. Baghaturia asked the government how many companies import gas to Georgia, and answered the question himself, that there are two such companies. “Why doesn’t a third and fourth company try to get involved in such highly profitable business? Because there is elite corruption, monopolized and corrupt clans won’t allow them. The catastrophic increase in prizes is caused by the divided market among these clans. Corrupt and monopolized clans have divided the whole market among themselves. Competition has died. Accordingly, there are catastrophic prices and the gas price is 2.35 lari,” Baghaturia remarked, and added that the government doesn’t do anything against this situation, but on the contrary protects it.  

In brief, News

‘Nepotism’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Jondi Baghaturia, representative of the parliamentary faction Unity for Justice and leader of the Georgian Group Party accuses the government of nepotism. He made this statement in parliament today, during a debate by the request of the Christian Democrats regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. “Mr. Nika, your brother is head of the Bank of Georgia, don’t you approve this? I don’t have pretensions to you nor to your brother; but when the president goes to the bank headed by your brother, has a meeting and says that it is the best bank and you all should transfer to this bank, what is this called? Isn’t it nepotism; protectionism and elite corruption?” – Baghaturia asked Prime Minister Nika Gilauri.  

In brief, News

‘Georgia one of world’s healthiest economies’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “Going by macro-economic parameters, Georgia is one of the healthiest countries in the world,” Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said Friday at a debate in parliament. The debate was held at the request of the Christian Democrats regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. According to Gilauri, economic growth rates are directly dependent on macro-economic parameters, and so the first point in this plan is connected to this issue. “Macro-economic indicators are important to create jobs in the country. Let’s take Greece as an example; or the other countries which have entered into a crisis – what’s happening there? Jobs are being lost there. The countries cannot handle their obligations. They cannot repay the pensions; cannot repay ordinary salaries; the economy is crashed down; the private sector is crashed down and as a result we have seen very difficult situation in Greece; because macro-economic parameters were not right and healthy,” Gilauri said. Georgia is in the best situation in the world, according to him. “We are the only one economy this year, which has increased its [growth] prognosis from 5.5% to 6%; but ...

In brief, News

Will Georgia’s population be halved?

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Christian Democrats in parliament argue that comparing the specific numbers in the government’s 10-point plan’s to the reality puts the government in a very awkward situation. One of their representatives, Levan Vepkhvadze, said this at a special debates today, which has been held on their request regarding the government’s ten-point plan. “In this document you say that for 2014, GDP per capita will become 5-6 thousand US dollars. Today GDP per citizen is 2 700 US dollars; and if there is 6% economic growth this year, we expect 6% growth for the next year too. In case of a doubling of per capita GDP for 2014, then there has to be 18-20% growth for the next year and these rates should permanently increase the next 3-4 years. Otherwise, the GDP per capita will be doubled only if the total population number will be halved,” Levan Vepkhvadze said in an address directed at prime minister Nika Gilauri, who had been invited to the debate. According to Vapkhvadze, the health program envisaged in the 10-point plan foresees a reduction in the ...

In brief, News

Strong growth in GPD

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s Prime Minister Nika Gilauri says that gross domestic product (GDP) per capita will be 3 100 US dollars this year. He has made this statement at a political debate in the parliament Friday, regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’ at the request of the Christian Democrats. According to the Prime Minister, the GDP rates for Georgia are the best and achieving it is the government’s merit. “This is not the high rates, but everything is comparable. In 2003 the GDP was 900 US dollars and during these 8 years it has grown threefold, which is the best rates, and in the next 4-5 years Georgia will transfer to a higher level than that of a developing country,” Nika Gilauri stated. A  

In brief, News

‘No threat of recession’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri says ‘there is no threat of economic recession in the country’ due to the government’s successful efforts. The new aim for the government is the creation of jobs. The Prime Minister made the statement during a special debate in the parliament Friday regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’, following a request by the Christian Democrats. Gilauri explained that this plan was created based on the ‘Financial Stimulation’ plan implemented in 2009 by the government, which according to the governmental was the most successful in the whole region. “Let’s remember the specific numbers: during the world economic crisis there was increase in the minuses in our neighboring countries – minus 15% in Armenia, minus 12% in Ukraine, minus 10% in Russia, minus 8% in Turkey, minus 18% in the Baltic countries, and Georgia was the only country in the region where the economic fall was only 3.5% and which could manage to get out of recession very soon. In 2010 we had an economic growth of plus 6.4% and this year we also expect good economic ...

In brief, News

Christian Democrats wants kiosk plan changed

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Christian Democrats has asked City Hall to directly transfer a hundred booths to newspapers and distributors within the framework of the project ‘1000 booths’. Zaza Gabunia, Christian Democrats representative in Tbilisi City Council, said this at a press conference November 25. He added that if Tbilisi City Hall doesn’t do this, the recent initiative to clear away newspaper booths will be an ‘attack on the free media.’ Tbilisi City Hall announced an internet bidding contest for a contract to place 1 000 kiosks around the capital, explained as an effort to support small and middle sized businesses. It is clear from the announcement that Tbilisi City Hall mainly wants to locate the new booths exactly in places where there already are newspaper kiosks. This has caused concern among representatives of the press, except for a few pro-governmental newspapers. According to managers of print media, the distribution of newspapers is in the serious danger and this will benefit neither the press nor for the government nor the wider society. The Christian Democrats say they have requested the City Hall to establish special ...

In brief, News

Republicans shares press concern about kiosks

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republican Party joins representatives of the Georgian press in expressing protest against Tbilisi City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks. The Party’s statement says that City Hall’s decision, which was made several weeks ago, as expected had become an instrument for attack on the press and small business. “We Republicans were against this decision since day one, because it serves for the monopolization of this sector and to oust small business,” the statement reads. The Republican Party demands that City Hall publishes not only the statistical data about the conducted bidding process, but specific information about companies and individuals which were entitled to locate booths on the territory of the capital for many years. “It’s quite clear for the decision-makers that newspaper kiosks will never manage to really compete with food, tobacco or lottery companies. It is known that a ‘special’ place is given in this segment to Davit Kezerashvili’s company, and the government leaves a monopolized situation exactly to this company by the eviction of other firms in the market,” the statement says. The government has announced a internet auction ...

In brief, News

Informal alliance around Ivanishvili

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republicans, Free Democrats and businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team will be cooperating with eachother, but they have not yet decided to set up a formal coalition or alliance. Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the Republicans leaders, announced this statement today after a meeting with Ivanishvili. The meeting was held at the businessman’s residence on his own initiative. It lasted for one hour and was attended by all Republicans and Free Democrats representatives. According to David Berdzenishvili, they have created a new political unity which will be an “alternative political center to the government.” “Its final form and the identities of its members will be clear in the near future. It cannot yet be an electoral bloc due to the simple reason that the elections are not yet scheduled. Now it is a process of forming one united political machine,” David Berdzenishvili remarked. Viktor Dolidze, representative of the Free Democrats, explained that it was decided to create eleven working groups which will thematically work on security, economy, agriculture, health and social issues.  

In brief, News

Prison guards get more protection

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - It has become a criminal offense to threaten a jail worker or his family. A bill adopted by parliament, which makes changes to the Criminal Code, is now in force. Before the change, to resist a lawful order made by a prison or detention facility employee, or in any way prevent the activities of the institution or disrupt its activity, could carry a sentence of up to three years’ imprisonment. With the new regulation, to resist a lawful order by a prison or detention facility employee, to use violence against them, threaten to kill them or their nearest relatives, or the make threats to damage health or property, will carry a sentence of imprisonment of up to three years, but only if the threat is connected with the employee’s job activities. Preventing the activities of the institution in some way, or disrupting its activity, is punished in the same way.  

In brief, News

Old taxes may be cancelled

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Some category of high income taxpayers will have their accumulated unpaid taxes until 2005 cancelled. This is foreseen by a bill to change the Tax Code which was presented to parliament on November 25. If the bill is passed, the Revenue Service will be entitled to write off tax debts, fines and penalty in case it is not considered as recognized and if the tax payer hadn’t been informed by the Revenue Service of the amount of debt accrued. At the same time, in order to be entitled to write off the debt, it must have been presented at least 6 years in before. Parliament is now reviewing the bill about expenditure procedure.  

In brief, News

2011 budget passed

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s 2011 budget was passed Thursday after a debate in an almost empty parliament. In its revised form it is increased by 219 million lari to a total of 7 570 million. 84 votes for the budget and 4 against. But during the debate there were hardly anyone in the hall. Only 24 lawmakers attended, 20 from the ruling party and 4 opposition representatives. Dimitry Gvindadze, Georgian Finance Minister presented the revised budget at a plenary session. There had to be three roll calls before the voting was allowed to proceed, because too few deputies were in attendance. The minimum number is 76, while at first only 70 members of parliament were registered, and second only 75. At last the problem was solved after a call from the parliamentary speaker.  

In brief, News

‘Smear campaign’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Giorgi Tsagareishvili, member of the Free Democrats Party, accuses the government of being engaged in a smear campaign against the opposition. He had made this statement during a debate in parliament Thursday about tightening the rules regarding party financing. Tsagareishvili said that the media have launched what amounts to a smear campaign lately against the Free Democrats, in which the party is accused of working for Russian interests. According to him, the Free Democrats’ choice is a free Europe and Georgia’s integration with NATO. “The Free Democrats admit and focus including you that 20% of our territory is occupied by Russian military forces. We admit that thousands of people are displaced from their home-lands; and now there is Russian boot is stepped in so-called South Ossetia, Akhalgori, also in so-called high-Abkhazia – Dariali Valley,” Tsagareishvili said. According to him, such ridiculus accusations should be stopped once and for all, as should the rest of the smear campaign which the governemt is engaging in against the Free Democrats and other opposition parties via the media. He called for the government to return to legislative ...

News

Georgian press warns it could be wiped out

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian press, which has long been a stronghold of independence, is warning it is in danger of being wiped out by a new distribution system which could be used to censure their access to customers. Newspapers in Georgia are almost totally reliant on street sale. Therefore news stands are the only way papers are able to reach their readers. Recently Tbilisi City Hall announced a tender which indicates that a new chain of kiosks will have their locations at exactly the same places where there are kiosks selling newspapers today. This seems to indicate that the government wants to shut down the existing booths and replace them with the new ones, which if run by a company loyal to the authorities could strangle the press' access to readers, and this poses a significant threat to freedom of the press, warns a number of newspaper editors. The government statement about the new sales booths came recently and announced a bidding contest about locating booths at the specific places around the capital. The announcement from City Hall makes it clear that the ...

Opinion

The new political centre and the new chance

by | November 25, 2011

The autumn of 2011 was marked with increased political activity in Georgia. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a wealthy Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s emergence on the Georgian political scene as a major opposition figure was widely regarded in Georgia as an event of the same magnitude as the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. The fact that Ivanishvili, a businessman turned politician, has suddenly become a focus of media spotlight and heated public debate – no matter what people think of his actions – speaks for itself. How he is characterised by supporters and opponents is another thing. Part of his supporters view him as a "savoir" of the nation. According to others, his emergence signals the arrival of a new type of leader. For the opponents he is a Russian spy, a cunning enemy on a mission to ruin Georgia, a smart crook and, at the same time, a stupid and narrow-minded man. Besides, parallels are often drawn between Ivanishvili and another Georgian oligarch, Badri Patarkatsishvili, who led the opposition in previous years. It is obvious, however, that the ...

In brief, News

Opposition talked to deaf ears

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - When the opposition bloc Unity for Justice had their thirty minutes in parliament Thursday, the rest of the deputies had left. The only one there was parliament speaker Davit Bakradze. Not only the ruling National Movement were missing, but also other minority representatives. A faction is allowed thirty minutes’ time once for the summer and fall season according to parliament’s regulations. Giorgi Tsagareishvili, Dimitry Lortkipanidze and Jondi Baghaturia shared their bloc's slot to criticize a number of the government’s policies. Besides speaker Bakradze, the only other representatives listening to them were Petre Mamradze and Tamaz Diasamidze, also part of Unity for Justice. The majority and minority explained their non-attendence with the fact that they needed to rest. Jondi Baghaturia called it ‘shameful’ and ‘a protest against their own people.’ He thanked David Bakradze for staying and listening to the end.  

In brief, News

Mega dams will go ahead regardless

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Aleksandre Khetaguri, Georgia’s minister for energy and natural resources says two controversial hydropower projects in the west of the country will be built and there is no alternative. He had made this statement during question time in parliament Thursday. The minister saud the construction of the Khudoni and Namakhvani dams started during the Soviet Union and now they are in such condition that they need to be built. Khetaguri claims that both projects have had an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) conforming with international standards, and there will be public hearings. As for the population in those regions, according to the minister, they will be provided with alternative settlement. “The construction of Khudoni hydropower station will probably begin in the coming year. We have announced the tender for the construction of the Namakhvani nearly a week ago. I hope that the construction will begin shortly after conducting a tender, because it’s the most studied object in terms of the ecologic impact on the environmet,” Khetaguri added. According to parliament regulation government question time is held on the last Thursday in a ...

In brief, News

Tbilisi boosts defense by 7%

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia expands its defense budget by 7% next year. The growth is explained with the country’s need for security. 44 600 000 Georgian lari more will become available for military spending, bringing the total to 704 631 200 lari for defense, finance minister Dimitry Gvindadze told lawmakers Thursday at a session to review the 2011 budget and plan ahead. The revised 2011 budget will grow by 219 million lari compared to its original form, to a total of 7 570 million lari. Members of the opposition in parliament expressed interest in the increased defense budget. Gvindadze says the growth is due to certain tendencies the last few years. The Ministry of Defense was growing until 2008 when it had 23% of the total state spending at its disposal. This amounts to 8.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Minister, since 2009 the Ministry of Defense have seen a fall in financing to 9.3% of the total expenses in the current year. “This level is necessary for the Ministry of Defense’s responsibilities in providing the country’s security,” the minister stated.  

In brief, News

Victims of Soviet repression lose compensation

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian authorities have stopped paying compensation to families of people who were victim of Soviet repression, according to Giorgi Tsagareishvili, representative of the Free Democrats and chairman of the parliamentary bloc Unity for Justice. Tsagareishvili asked finance minister Dimitry Gvindadze to clarify the issue Thursday at a plenary session in parliament to review the 2011 budget. According to Tsagareishvili, the Finance Ministry has stopped paying even small installments defined by court, specifically 150, 200 and 220 Georgian lari. In addition, court appeals about granting compensation have been suspended, according to the Free Democrats representative. Georgian legislation leaves it up to courts to decide who should receive compensation for repression by the bolshevist regime. Tsagareishvili asked the government to solve the problem. “These people at least deserve that their compensation funds be recorded in the specific article in the budget,” he says. Finance minister Gvindadze claims this is the first time he hears about the freeze in compensations payment. Answering the call to enter a record in the budget for compensation funds, Gvindadze said: “This is not necessary, and the government will return to the issue ...

In brief, News

Did 219 million lari disappear?

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - An opposition lawmaker accuses the government of having spent 219 million lari and trying to hide it by creative budgeting. Jondi Bagaturia of the Georgian Group party, who is part of the Unity for Justice bloc in parliament, said this at a plenary session Thursday to review the country’s 2011 budget. The 2011 budget is being expanded by 219 million lari compared to the original plan, to 7 570 million lari. Such an increase at the end of the year has raised suspicion in opposition quarters. As Bagaturia sees it, if the government has an extra 219 million, then the pension raise should start from January 1, instead of in September, at least by five lari. “You say that you have 219 million lari. Then increase the pension from January 1. But I have a suspicion that this money is already spent, and now you want to legalize it. Our faction will not support such a legalization of illegal spending,” Bagaturia told the ruling majority. Basic pension in Georgia is 100 lari per month. The government vows to increase it from September, but ...

In brief, News

Georgia braces for Euro crisis impact

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian finance minister says the country will financially stand on its feet in 2012. Dimitri Gvindadze made this statement today in parliament as lawmakers were gathered for a plenary session to review the 2011 budget. In its revised form, the 2011 budget will be increased  by 219 million lari, to 7 570 million lari. The minister explained the increase with larger tax revenues because the economy has grown more than expected. ‘Current resources and fiscal strength’ give grounds for forecasting that the country will ‘financially stand on its feet’ next year. “These resources are necessary for the country to withstand the various outside pressures stemming from the Euro crisis,” Gvindadze said.  

In brief, News

Georgia waives visa on ethnic grounds

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia establishes a new system based on ethnicity, which gives people of Georgian origin the right to visa free travel, education grants and to represent their mother country at sports events. The Law on Diaspora Organizations and Compatriots Living Abroad was approved by parliament Thursday. It establishes a new status for citizens of other countries who can show that they were either born in Georgia or can trace their roots here. After filling in the required application, and upon approval, a special document will allow visa free entry, if a visa would otherwise have been required, for up to 30 days. In addition, the law foresees state education grants and state Master’s degree grant for people having the new status. Pending approval from the international sports federation within the relevant sports discipline, compatriots with the new status will also have the right to represent Georgia in international tournaments.  

News

Ivanishvili citizenship decision gets closer

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili is one step closer to knowing whether he will be allowed to run in Georgia’s coming parliamentary and presidential elections through ordinary avenues, as Tbilisi’s city court schedules his pre-trial session for December 5. The issue before the court is whether to give him back his Georgian citizenship. But Ivanishvili is also planning to go directly to the president and request him to grant him citizenship. The case goes back to the beginning of October, when the businessman’s citizenship was revoked following a presidential decree dated October 11. The reason given was the fact that Ivanishvili is a French citizen. According to the government’s version of all this, Ivanishvili was granted Georgian citizenship in 2004. He was a Russian citizen at that time, so it meant that he became a dual citizen. But Ivanishvili later became citizen of a third country, France. Due to Georgian legislation, the government argues, his citizenship should then have been determined. But the French citizenship was unknown to authorities, it is claimed, until Ivanishvili published an open letter on October 7 expressing ...

News

Congressmen met opposition before the government

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A delegation of US congressmen who came to Georgia for the eight-year anniversary of the rose revolution held meetings with the opposition before meeting the government. At the meetings with the opposition they spoke about the problems in the country. According to official information from the US embassy, the congressmen arrived here for a two-day visit, and they will be meeting with both the president Mikheil Saakashvili, Parliamentary Speaker Davit Bakradze, Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council Giorgi Bokeria as well as opposition representatives. The congressmen in the delegation are: David Dreier (Republican from California), Ed Whitfield (Republican from Kentucky), and Donald Payne (Democrat from New Jersey), and also Barry Jackson, Chief of Staff to the House Speaker. The delegation chairman is congressman Dreier, who is chairman of the House Committee on Rules. The meeting between the opposition and congressmen has been held in the US embassy. Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, David Usupashvili, chairman of the Republicans, Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democrats, David Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rightists party and Kakha Shartava, one of ...

News

Tbilisi unveils statue of Ronald Reagan

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian capital marked the anniversary of the rose revolution in 2003 and twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union by unveiling a bronze statue of US president Ronald Reagan today. “He brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union and freed the lives of thousands of people. So he now more than ever deserves his own place in the center of Tbilisi and in the heart of Georgia,” President Mikheil Saakashvili said at the unveiling ceremony. “Because Georgia is also his achievement and the conductor of ideas, supporter of an ideology, which Reagan had been conducting all of his life,” the president said next to the bronze statue showing Ronald Reagan sitting on a bench. Today is also Saint George’s day, one of Georgia’s patron saints. The statue was made by Georgian sculptor Avtandil Monaselidze and is located in the old district of Tbilisi, on the bank of the river Mtkvari, in a newly reconstructed green lung called Rike Park.  There is  enough space on the bench next to Reagan’s statue for people passing by to sit down ...

News

Newspaper exposes identity of policeman who blackmailed journalist

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A Georgian newspaper has gone public with the identity of a policeman who blackmailed one of its journalists two years ago. According to the newspaper Batumelebi, which is published in the western coast city Batumi, the person who blackmailed Tedo Jorvbenadze, the coordinator of the paper’s investigative team, on November 25, 2009, was a policeman named Davit Devnozashvili. “The person who tried to entice the journalist to cooperate with the police in an illegal way is Davit Devnozashvili, born in 1971,” reads a letter addressed to the Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and written by the director of Batumelebi Ltd. Three Batumelebi employees went to the Interior Ministry Building in Batumi, after police tried to force Tedo Jorbenadze to sit in the car in the evening in front of the newspaper office. He refused and suggested to go there himself. Netgazeti, an online newspaper run by Batumelebi, reported that a person called Davit showed Jorbenadze black and white photos of naked men insisting that the journalist was one of the men on the photos. If he didn’t cooperate with them, then they would ...

News

Party financing rules target opposition

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A leading legal expert says the new rules on party financing will severely hamper opposition parties as Georgia enters two consecutive election years. The new rules are widely seen as a move to make it more difficult for billionaire philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili to use his wealth to claim political power. They will criminalize many ways of directly or even indirectly giving money to political parties. Vakhtang Khmaladze, an experienced constitutional expert, thinks the measures might reinforce the reluctance among Georgia’s business community to support anyone else than the ruling party. “A number of actions may be criminalized. In such economic condition which Georgiais in, how many people will have the possibility to donate to a party? If there will be any, do you think anyone will donate? Of course, the one who is scared. Usually it happens this way and it is proved by the list of the donators into the National Movement fund,” Khmaladze says. In summer as part of a debate about reforming the election system, it was suggested to restrict party financing, but only after Mr Ivanishvili ...

News

Tax break for seniors labelled age discrimination

by | November 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A leading opposition member of parliament says the government’s new tax break for seniors is a form of age discrimination. Free Democrat leader Giorgi Tsagareishvili, who is chair of the parliamentary faction Unity for Justice, says the initiative is a politically motivated decision and part of the election campaign and that it is ‘unacceptable to make such a discriminatory decision.’ The tax break is an initiative coming from the president which will abolish income tax for those from 45 to 60 years old. The president made his promise a few weeks ago, and parliament has just started discussing how to work out the appropriate legislative changes to accommodate the president’s promise. The initiative will exempt people from 45 to 60 from paying income tax for a year, if they are able to find employment starting in the period between January 1, 2011 and July 1. But only those qualify who were unemployed in the three months prior to finding work. The main argument behind it, according to president Mikheil Saakashvili, is that the tax cut creates more motivation to employers to hire ...

Opinion

Neo-patrimonial Society and Hybrid Regime in Georgia

by | November 22, 2011

On Monday, November 21, 2011, in the conference hall of the Georgian Parliament Library, I was to hold a presentation on the topic: “Government’s Dilemma in a Neo-patrimonial Society: Institutionalisation of Democracy or Destruction of Clientelism?“ The presentation was blocked by an invisible hand phone call - one of three invited members of parliament or the head of parliament, in the administration of the Parliamentary Library. There was a paradoxical coincidence, a presentation in which one of the issues should be consideration of democratization and its component - the freedom of speech, freedom of media, the rule of law after the Rose Revolution, one of the creators of revolutions, a member of the Georgian parliament without breaks Appeal. The article which is the basis for the presentation can be read in full in Georgian and English language at the Caucasian Institute of Economic and Social Research Online (www.ciesr.org). The presentation addresses the problem of democratization in Georgia after the “Rose Revolution”, during the transformation of the patrimonial oligarchic hybrid regime of Shevardnadze. The eight post-revolution years have seen a lot of initiatives and ...

News

Secret bill reins in party financing

by | November 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The government has secretly sent a bill to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission which seems to block Bidzina Ivanishvili's last option for using his wealth to build an opposition movement. Private companies and organizations are prohibited from financing political parties. Individuals will have the right to give a maximum of sixty thousand Georgian lari per year. Membership fees can’t exceed 1200 lari per year. The annual income of a party, including state financing, can not exceed 0.2% of Georgia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Any amount received more than that should be paid to the state. In order to receive government financing, a preliminary application will be necessary. A Georgian citizen with over 15% income from a simplified state procurement of an enterprise he has  shares in can’t be a donor to a political party. Party membership fees and donations from citizens can only be transferred by non-cash money. The Chamber of Control will do the financial reporting of the party, instead of the Central Election Commission (CEC). The amendment will be made to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens. In ...

News

Adjara TV broadcasting in violation of the law

by | November 21, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - For the last three weeks Georgian television station Adjara TV has been broadcasting in violation of the constitution and the law on broadcasting. The Georgian government is responsible by not passing a law which would split it off from the autonomous republic’s authorities. Adjara TV has been operating as a branch of the authorities of the region since 2004, pending a bill which split it off and make it either a private company or part of the Georgian Public Broadcasting. The deadline for doing has been postponed several times and last ended on November 1. The government has not explained why no decision has been made yet. Adjara TV broadcasts via satellite and can be watched for free. It is financed from the state budget and is considered part of the state, more specifically as one of the departments of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic, which is the official name of the southwestern part of Georgia. This contradicts article 24 of the Georgian Constitution, where it says: ‘Mass media are free, censorship is prohibited.’ Despite the fact that this section of the ...

Opinion

Guarantees of Impartiality for Georgian Juries

by | November 21, 2011

Nowadays, in Georgia jury trials are the hot topic. The first ever jury trial in Georgian legal history has returned a guilty verdict in an aggravated murder case in Tbilisi City Court. Even this first practice with jury trials has revealed some legislative flaws relating to outside influence on the jury, which most definitely comes from both, media-related unbalanced laws and the lack of safeguards in the Georgian Criminal Procedure Code. Considering the fact that a juror is not a legal professional and he or she can be very easily swayed by information obtained outside of the trial, all these sources of information have to be regulated or else an impartial Jury in criminal justice seems to be delusional and not feasible. The crucial problem in the legislation regulating jury trials is that there are not sufficient safeguards for the jury to be protected against improper information from outside the trial, while Georgian media and television have given a full swing release to all the information about the crime, the accused, witnesses and all the circumstance around surrounding the trial. Unfortunately, ...

News

75% support Ivanishvili on Facebook

by | November 21, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - When asked on Facebook ‘Who would you vote for, Bidzina Ivanishvili or Mikheil Saakashvili?’, 24 000 out of nearly 32 000 Georgians answered they would support Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, while only 7 500 voted for the current president. This is a large number and ‘it shows a clear tendency’, according to a specialist in social research methodology. The Georgian philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili unexpectedly released an open letter on October 7 saying that he had decided to enter politics and run in the parliamentary election in October 2012. In a number of statements and interviews he said he is going to set up a political party, and if he wins the elections he will impeach Saakashvili, unless the president resigns. “This poll is incorrect and pointless, because none of them will take the part in the elections,” Sandro, one Facebook user, comments. Saakashvili is serving his second term, which will be his last, due to the Georgian constitution, which prevents him from staying on for a third term. A few days after Ivanishvili declared he would join politics, his Georgian citizenship was revoked. ...

Opinion

Election-year budget or election budget?

by | November 20, 2011

An election year budget is seen by economists is significantly different from a non-election year budget. In this regard, the budget expenditure is very interesting, which represents the government expenditure policy in the forms of various activities. In the budget expenditure part we see expenses, which can be directly or non-directly considered as to increase the level of voter satisfaction; which can bring additional election votes to the governments. To determine and analyze all above-mentioned is possible only if budget expenses are represented transparent and in details. It means writing out expenses due to the financing activities and directions. Georgian budget 2012 is significantly weak in this regard. To compare with the 2011 budget – expense details are only formal part of the new budget. If there were 3000 different detailed records in 2011 budget, it is decreased to 1500 records in 2012 budget project. The project prepared in program form gives information only on the general activities and doesn’t represents financing range due to the specific activities. Some projects that have been separately represented in 2011 budget are merged and ...

News

Don’t mention the lawyers

by | November 19, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - 123 lawyers have been put in jail the last 7 years, and tell horrific stories of beatings and rape. But EU parliamentarians Thursday decided not to mention the lawyers in their criticism of Georgia. Krzysztof Lisek, speaker of the European Parliament on Georgia issues, was in Tbilisi Friday discussing the latest resolution with Georgian parliamentarians. He says the ‘EU is not a closed club, and its doors are open for everyone sharing the EU’s values, including for Georgia.’ Lisek organized a session of the EU’s integration and foreign relations committee in the Georgian parliament. He explained the recent resolution, which in effect tells the Georgian government how it must improve in order to get an association agreement and free trade with the EU. “EU considers Georgia a European country. The North Partnership program included two of six countries – Georgia and Moldova are going in the right direction in terms of reforms. The procedures of EU integration don’t end with yesterday’s resolution, but Georgia made one step forward to Europe with this document. According to the Lisbon agreement, the European ...

Opinion

Proactive Transparency in Georgia

by | November 18, 2011

The “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information” has been conducting monitoring the level of informational transparency of the official web-pages of public institutions of Georgia for already a few years, starting from 2009. The results of the 2010 study, the evaluation parameters and the methodology are placed on the web-site of the institute:  http://www.idfi.ge/?cat=monitoring_2010_new&lang=en It should be noted that a study of this type is quite innovative and refers to the 21st century trend - institutionalization of E-democracy and E-transparency; especially as internet globally has become one of the most accepted forms of direct communication between the government and the citizens. The same trend is observed in Georgia, where the number of internet users is growing annually. According to World Bank data, there were 1.3 million internet users in Georgia in 2009, or 30% of the population – http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER). The electronic accessibility of public information is one of the most crucial components for the development of electronic transparency. The State Authorities possess significant public information regarding different social, economic and financial issues. At the same time, the release of such kind of ...

News

PM: Georgia doesn’t need EU integration yet

by | November 18, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s Prime Minister Nika Gilauri thinks that under today’s conditions, Georgia doesn’t need to be integrated with the European Union. There are negotiations with the EU now about a free trade agreement, and Georgia ‘is hoping for visa liberalization agreement and free trade agreement’. “For now EU is not ready to accept new members. But the EU integration is on the agenda of long term goals for Georgia,” he said. The prime minister’s remarks fell during a conference about policy measures for creating a better business environment in the country, during a conference organized by British magazine The Economist in Tbilisi on November 17. The minister spoke about the successful reforms implemented since 2003. According to him, the most important, successful but hard reform to implement was the fight against corruption. Then came education reform and other reforms. Today the country’s first priority in terms of reforms is a pension and healthcare reform, the PM claimed. During the discussion both he, the minister of economy and other Georgian speakers mentioned that in the agricultural sector Georgia is becoming more and more ...

News

Benefits of an embargo

by | November 18, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Russia’s embargo has made Georgia seek out new markets thereby making the country more independent, Giga Bokeria, secretary of Georgia’s national security council, said on Thursday. Bokeria said this during a conference organized by the British magazine The Economist in Tbilisi. He was responding to a statement by opposition politician Irakli Alasania, who noted that the Georgian government isn’t capable of mending relations with its northern neighbor and is scaring off investors by on the one hand inviting them to come, but on the other talking about a lingering threat of Russian intervention. According to Alasania, export of Georgian goods to Russia used to be 18% and now it’s about 2%. But at the same time, despite Russia’s invasion, economic interests still exist. During the conference, the Free Democrats leader said that there is a contradiction between the message the government is sending foreign investors. “On the one hand we are a tourism country and asking global companies to invest in Georgia, and this is precisely what should we be doing and will do in future. But on the other hand, ...

News

Bendukidze criticizes European bureacracy

by | November 18, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian economic analyst Kakha Bendukidze Thursday criticized the European Union for having too much bureacracy. “We are a European country. Psychologically and politically we are part of Europe, the Europe of human rights, respecting principles of the circulation of capital. But there is another Europe, which is a bureaucratic creature, which decides tax rates and how the cucumber should be formed. I don’t want such a Europe. Such a Europe is in agony. There is a crisis in Europe, which wants to excessively apply bureaucratic rules. We don’t want a Europe where Greece's problems creates a crisis in it,” he said at a conference organized by The Economist magazine. According to Bendukidze, this week is decisive for Europe, and these days will define whether the crisis will deepen or not. And if it deepens, then it will also affect the Georgian economy. He also discussed the reforms in terms of Georgia and Europe. For a country where 20% of the territory is occupied and there is a small market, reforms are very important, he said. The British magazine The Economist held ...

News

Gov’t to Cartu Bank: Stay out of politics

by | November 17, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - If the managers of Cartu Bank won’t keep out of politics and get its house in order, the National Bank will take it over. Giorgi Kadagidze, president of the National Bank, said this Thursday at a session of the parliament’s finance and budget committee. Cartu Bank is owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian businessman who October 7 declared he would enter politics. Four days later, the president revoked his citizenship, and then, on October 18, a Cartu Bank money transport carrying 2 million dollars and one million Euros from the Bank of Georgia was raided by police. Later the government explained that it was an operation money laundering, but the Cartu Bank management claims the cash was cash reinforcement between banks, and part of the normal operation of banks. The National Bank then began an audit into Cartu Bank, which is not yet completed. Cartu Bank president Nodar Javakhishvili claims that the public services have halted all contracts with the bank and closed their accounts. Despite the numerous questions raised in the time since, no answers have been forthcoming. In addition, Nodar ...

Interviews

Too little transparency at the top

by | November 17, 2011

The DFWatch interview: Mark Mullen In an interview with DFWatch, Mark Mullen notes that the main problem in Georgia is a lack of transparency at the senior levels. In terms of corruption, he thinks that there is no so-called elite corruption in Georgia, but still there is less transparency ‘at the top’. Regarding the media, he says that both government controlled and other channels have the same problems: there are  many important issues they don’t cover. The main problem with online media, as he sees it, is that they often fail to give the source of information. Mark Mullen has been living in Georgia since the late 90s. Comparing the Shevardnadze period with today’s situation he thinks that it’s much better now than it was before 2003. The government has done a lot of good things, but a there are still problems in the country. In his opinion, a Georgian billionaire’s sudden appearance is very good for the country. It’s a chance to have real political competition, which is good. Corruption DFWatch: You have been at Transparency International Georgia for many years, and this organization ...

News

Ashton commends Georgian trade reforms

by | November 17, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hopes that the negotiations about a free trade agreement with the EU will be completed ahead of schedule. The president said this after a meeting with Catherine Ashton, EU's vice-president and high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Ashton is in Georgia within the South Caucasus visit frameworks. She began her visit in Azerbaijan, which she visited on November 15. Thursday she’ll visit Armenia. Georgia’s foreign minister Grigol Vashadze also attended the meeting which took place at the president’s residence. The main topics for the meeting were free trade with European countries, liberalization of visa rules and the negotiations process regarding Georgia’s associate membership in the EU, according to statements made during a briefing afterwards. Catherine Ashton stated at the briefing that it’s a great honor for her to visit Georgia for the second time. She focused on free trade between Georgia and the EU. According to her, Georgia has shown great progress in the trade sphere and is carrying out important reforms in this area. “Trade relations are important to the Georgian population as well as for ...

News

The Economist to hold conference in Tbilisi

by | November 16, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The British magazine The Economist will gather experts and politicians in Tbilisi November 17 to discuss and analyze Georgia’s investment environment and perspectives. The event will take place in the Radisson hotel. Among the Georgian speakers will be prime minister Nika Gilauri, finance minister Dimitry Gvindadze, and Vera Kobalia, the minister of economy and sustainable development. Free Democrats leader Irakli Alasania will also be attending. Among the foreign speakers tomorrow are Asad Alam, country director at the South Caucasus Country Department, Paul-Henry Forester, EBRD country director for Moldova, Caucasus and Belarus, Tom de Waal, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. Dougal Thomson (pictured), Head of the Conference Program CEMEA of the Economist Group and the chairman of tomorrow’s conference, told journalist today at a special conference that the summit will discuss the environment which can influence the Georgian economy in the future. “We are not here to tell investors to invest in Georgia, we are here to talk openly and critically about the investment problems and possibilities in Georgia. If we will be able to make Georgia more successful in terms ...

Opinion

We and the conflict regions population

by | November 16, 2011

"Disobedient Satellites" First tour of the presidential elections was held in the former South Ossetia on November 13. Kremlin candidate Bibilov, who was openly supported by the Russian Presidential administration and Prime Minister Putin, not only failed to gain a convincing victory, but gathered only 25% of the votes. Not even a speech of Konstantin Kasachov, chairman of the Russian Duma's International Committee helped him, which took place during his special meeting in Tskhinvali to show support; neither did the appeal to the Ossetian people by Vladimir Putin, chairman of the United Russia party and Prime Minister. In their speeches they both unequivocally supported Bibilov's candidacy. Despite this unprecedented interference, Bibilov wasn’t able to show the desired results to the Moscow Protégés in the presidential elections of a ‘sovereign state’. The Russian pro-government political technology and the  exit poll system in Tskhinvali also failed. They had been busy bolstering Emergency Situation Minister and they had been predicting a decisive victory and 70% of votes to Bibilov before election day. As expected, Bibilov received the highest percentage of votes in the Akhalgori (Leningori in ‘Ossetian’) ...

News

Patriarch: Everything will be all right

by | November 16, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - It was a moment heavy with symbolism when Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and Patriarch Ilia II emerged from their meeting Tuesday. “We are pleased that Ivanishvili visited the Antioch today. We have discussed a number of issues, especially the future of Georgia and its current condition. I think everything will be all right,” Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch his Holiness and Beatitude Illia II stated after the one hour meeting. Ivanishvili said it had been one of the happiest days in his life. “I have met with his Holiness for several times. Today has been a very interesting meeting. I received a number of advice from him, which I will take note of and which will help me in my future activities,” Ivanishvili said. By most accounts he looks set to be the next leader of Georgia, if he is allowed to engage in politics, but his progress is blocked by a presidential decree which stripped him of his citizenship. A campaign was launched in support for his attempt to get it back, and last Sunday in his sermon the patriarch made it clear he ...

News

Opposition wants debate about 10 point plan

by | November 16, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Just as the government is getting ready for a nationwide tour to promote its new ten point plan for developing the country, the opposition Christian Democrats say the plan should first be discussed in parliament. “Parliament is a place, where the main positions should be heard, especially when it comes to issues like the country’s development,” Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian Democrats says. He emphasizes that it is very important to hold debates regarding the government’s action plan. The Christian Democrats Monday made a formal request to have such a debate, which they have a right to according to the rules. The government can't refuse, but the parliamentary speaker promises to solve the issue at the next session on November 22. According to Vepkhvadze, the ruling party is preparing a nationwide tour to promote its ’10 point plan’ to the population, village by village. But the Christian Democrats think it would be better if the government had visited those villages to learn about their problems, and not to promote a plan that is already made. Vepkhvadze also points out that it ...

Opinion

Employment and Unemployment Trends in Georgia

by | November 15, 2011

In order to assess the economic condition of a country, economists look at a various number of statistics. Besides the level of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that measures the country’s economic output, one statistic that attracts attention from the economists as well as the general public is the unemployment rate in the country. Unemployment imposes a number of costs for a nation, such as economic, physiological and social. Unemployment in Georgia Since 1998 level of unemployment has been rising in Georgia, from 12.4% all the way up to 16.3% as of 2010. According to the research methodology of the National Statistics of Georgia, this 16.3% represents: “persons at the age of 15 or above, who was not employed (even for one hour) 7 days prior to the interview process, was looking for a job for the last 4 weeks time and was ready to start working within the next 2 weeks time” . If we consider these prerequisites, the unemployment rate is even more alarming. Furthermore, according to the survey conducted by National Democratic Institute (NDI), out of 16,161 questioned, 67% ...

News

Saakashvili challenger consults with Patriarch

by | November 15, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The main challenger in Georgian politics Tuesday consulted with the country's highly respected patriarch, and received advice about his further steps to claim power.  Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, Georgia's most respected person, met Bidzina Ivanishvili Tuesday at 6 pm, and the businessman afterwards said he received many tips which will help him in his political career. President Saakashvili has not commented on the development. The Georgian billionaire and longstanding philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili declared last month that he will be seeking power in the parliamentary election in October 2012. A few days later authorities revoked his Georgian citizenship thereby blocking him from entering politics. Mr Ivanishvili later said he wanted to meet the patriarch, and in an interview with a local media organization, Palitra, said such a meeting was already scheduled. Meanwile, there was an expectation that the country's most respected person, Patriarch Ilia II, would share his views on what is happening, and last Sunday he finally made his position clear, saying he is convinced that president Saakashvili will do the right thing and grant the businessman his citizenship. Tuesday, news broke ...

News

Alasania calls for a referendum

by | November 15, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Free Democrats leader Irakli Alasania asks the government to put the the latest constitutional change to the people in a referendum, calling it an illegal decision. The process is already in motion to change the constitution and increase the number of members of parliament from 150 to 190. But most of the opposition and commentators consider the whole initiative illegal, because the number of MPs was decided by a referendum, and therefore it may only be changed by another referendum. While making the statement yesterday at a rally outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, Alasania described the planned constitutional change as ‘the sole decision of Mikheil Saakashvili’. “This is an amendment which is not needed for the Georgian population,” the Free Democrats leader said. “This is a decision which will increase the number of the MPs by adding 40 extra, whose names are unknown to the voters even in their own regions.” According to Alasania, the decision runs counter to the what the people decided in 2003, when as a result of a referendum they supported decreasing the number of MPs to ...

News

Prime minister gets increased power

by | November 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Changes in how the leader of Georgia's Adajara region is chosen raises further suspicion that power is being concentrated in the office of the prime minister, increasing fears of a Putin scenario. The president has agreed with the government about the candidacy of the Chairman of the Adjara’s Autonomous Republic of Georgia. He will present the candidate to the Adjarian Supreme Board for approval. Due to the current constitution, the president doesn’t need governmental approval for this. Some experts see the decision as an attempt to increase the Prime Minister’s power even further, while others see this initiative in light of last year's constitutional amendments. Both sides think it’s a problem that due to the current constitution and these amendments, the issue of decentralizing government powers remains controversial. The amendment, which changes the country's management model, has been in the constitution since October 2010. The presidential authority is significantly reduced, and the Prime Minister’s rights are increased. It was a very controversial issue at the time, because experts don't think these amendments can solve the problems with power balance in ...

Opinion

Judiciary’s Inadequate Level of Transparency as an Intended Governmental Policy

by | November 14, 2011

The judiciary’s inadequate level of transparency remains both a main issue and challenge in Georgia. Though the judicial system has undergone numerous reforms in recent years, these reforms did not preserve or promote a more open judiciary, and in fact, judicial transparency was targeted most effectively by the establishment of a closed court system. As a result, Georgian courts formally operate on the principle of openness, though the reality is a strong tendency towards being closed. Transparency International Georgia noted transparency as the weakest part of Georgi’a judicial system in its latest report, Georgia National Integrity System Assessment, which was published in October, 2011. According to the report, legislation aimed at judicial transparency was assessed with 50 points from a possible 100 and the application of such reform was rated at a mere 25 points. Georgia legislation states that court sessions are to be open, although, an opportunity to fix the data by using technical devises and spread the information is significantly restricted. Additionally, the letter of the law ensures that court rulings must be announced publicly, but in practice court decisions ...

Opinion

Georgian Competition Way to EU

by | November 14, 2011

  “Antitrust laws … are the Magna Carta of free enterprise. They are as important to the preservation of economic freedom and our free-enterprise system as Bill of Rights is to the protection of our fundamental personal freedoms.” (The Supreme Court, United States v. Topco Associates, Inc. 1972)   Georgia heads towards integration into the EU, Georgia is a member of the World Trade Organisation, and enjoys the status of a full member or observer of many bilateral, regional or multilateral agreements and international organisations. Consequently,Georgiahas certain obligations in the light of regulation of domestic legal framework for trade and competition with due consideration of international principles and best practice and first of all rules and principles of the EU, WTO, UNCTAD, OECD.  Observance of these commitments obliges the countries: - To adopt, improve and efficiently enforce the respective legal acts; - To base legislation on the principles of suppression and efficient regulation of practices, restricting competition; - To ensure the non-discriminatory approach to every enterprise; - To improve the enforcement measures - Etc.   The foregoing puts forward the necessity of improvement of competition policy inGeorgiaand respectively, the care ...

News

Inconclusive election in Tskhinvali

by | November 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Tskhinvali region is heading for a run-off between the two main contenders in the presidential election, after none of them got above the 50 per cent threshold to win in the first round. According to Agence France-Presse, results from 78 out of 86 polling stations showed that alleged Kremlin-favorite Anatoly Bibilov fell slightly behind contender Alla Dzhioyeva, the sole female in the race, who is seen by many as an oppositional figure. According to AFP, Bibilov won 25.44 percent of the votes and Dzhioyeva 25.37 percent. Tskhinvali residents also voted in a referendum about declaring Russian the official language. According to Russian media, there was a calm atmosphere during election day. However, the election campaign was strained, and an opponent of Bibilov, Dzambulat Tedeev, was prohibited from registering his candidacy. Tedeev is head coach of Russia’s independent wrestling team and his supporters aren’t only from the sport world. Mamuka Areshidze, legal expert on Caucasus issues claims that Tedeev has a family surname which is very common in the Tskhinvali region, something which has helped him gather supporters, because of the importance ...

News

‘Russia and Georgia: looking for a solution’

by | November 13, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - ‘Russia and Georgia: looking for a solution’ – this is the title of a new collection of articles on Russia-Georgia problems, published by Russian and Georgian experts. With the help of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS), and support from the EU and the UNDP project COBERM (Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism). The collection has eight articles. Contributors from Georgia are Vladimer Papava, Tengiz Pkhaladze, Tornike Sharashenidze, George Tarkhan-Mouravi, Ivlian Haindrava, while the Russian contributions were written by Nikolay Silaev, Ivan Sukhov, Boris Frumkin, Andrei Zagorski and Alexander Skakov. Legal expert Kakha Gogolashvili has been leading the project. He notes that more experts had been participating in the process to define the list of the problems to work on. He thanks for this all the participating experts; including Carnegie Moscow Center and two Abkhazian experts, which have been participating in the working meetings. The identity of the Abkhazian experts is not revealed, so that they wouldn’t have any problems. Gogolashvili feels sorry that there hadn’t been found any expert in Tskhinvali. The collection was presented at the GFSIS office ...

News

Half-empty parliament oks election map redraw

by | November 12, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Barely half of parliament attended when a crucial proposal to rearrange how they themselves are elected was being discussed yesterday. The constitutional amendment in question will both increase the number of parliamentarians from 150 to 190 and change how they are elected, and is therefore one of the key changes to Georgia's election system as the country enters two consecutive election years. While controversial to some, the government had two opposition factions onboard last summer which signed an agreement stipulating that from now on, 83 members of parliament will be chosen through a system of single candidate districts, on a principle of first past the post, while the rest 107 will be chosen on the basis of a system of proportionality. Part of the plan also foresees splitting up single-candidate districts that have more than 100 000 voters. Accordingly, there will be 10 new single-mandate districts in various parts of the country. One of the objections to the plan is that when the current number of representatives was lowered to 150 back in 2003, a decision which came into force in ...

Legal reform, News

Oops! Gov’t backtracks on election reform

by | November 11, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The government is retracting on several of its eleventh-hour changes to the Georgian election law, but  stands firm on not allowing video surveillance in polling stations and defends the right of governors to participate in the election campaign. This emerged Friday in comments made by a member of the editorial group which has worked out the text of the draft law, Mamuka Katsitadze, of the New Rights party. When the ruling party suddenly introduced changes to the draft law without consulting anyone in August, several organizations objected, such as the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Transparency International Georgia and International Society for Democracy and Fair Elections. They objected that a number of issues needed to be changed, especially when it comes to issues which were introduced right before the draft law was finished, and after an agreement had been signed with two opposition factions. The Venice Commission also criticized the last minute changes. During their recent working visit to Georgia, the Commission said it was necessary to stick to the terms of the agreement. According to Mamuka Katsitadze, the government is now ...

News

Georgia creates terror watchlist

by | November 11, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia is to build its own list of known terrorists, and seize the property of persons designated as terrorists by the UN. Specifically the bill will amend the law on Anti Money Laundering Support. Initiators are MPs Andro Alavidze and Kakhaber Anjaparidze. If passed, the bill will establish a new commission which will make it possible to seize the property of persons defined by UN resolutions as terrorists, so that these persons won’t be able to finance terrorism or other illegal activities. The commission will work closely with foreign countries and international organizations, including the UN. A chairman will head the commission, and other members will be selected by the government. Another thing the commission will do is to petition the courts to seize the property of those persons as defined by UN resolutions. This new anti-terrrism commission will also be authorized to work on and establish a list of people connected with terrorism. The commission will be able to apply to the courts with a petition to seize or free from seizure these peoples’ property, after going through the right administrative procedures. In ...

News

Nato will discuss Georgia at Chicago summit

by | November 11, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has promised that the issue of Georgia’s membership in the alliance will also be reviewed at the summit in Chicago next May. Rasmussen said this at a press conference with President Saakashvili in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea shore. “We have not yet finished the preparations for the Chicago Summit. There are six months before the summit and work on the program is still underway. Everything can happen. We have not made any decisions yet, but without doubt, NATO allies will discuss the Georgia issue at the summit. There is a talk about how things will happen,” Rasmussen stated. According to him, a special document will be adopted on the summit which will reflect the progress in the reforms in Georgia. “I hope that the document, which will be adopted at the Chicago Summit, will reflect the progress which we have seen in Georgia,” the Secretary General noted. But he added that Georgia has to pay all of its attention to implementing the reforms; because the relations between Nato and Georgia will depend ...

News

Are pension promises for real?

by | November 10, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The government has promised to increase pensions and to provide state insurance for the pensioners, but hasn't set aside money for it in the budget. Parliament demanded that the budget made room for these promises. “Within the bill’s assignments framework there should be foreseen finances for the further increase of the pensions. All pensioners should be insured,” it's written in parliament's remarks about the decision. Later, the has government has confirmed a number of times that the promise would be kept, last by prime minister Nika Gilauri yesterday at a meeting with the president. “We have the resources to amend the social assistance after September 1, 2012, including to provide insurance for all pensioners,” Gilauri stated. But in order to implement this it is necessary for next year's budget to reflect the increased spending. Since the plan was introduced it has been discussed by parliament one time already, and it is now in its second round of debate. In the revised 2012 budget of November 4, the government confirmed that the promise will be kept. “The Georgian government is working on social reform to increase ...

News

Republican leader reelected

by | November 10, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The leader of the Republicans for the last two years, David Usupashvili, was reelected Wednesday by 600 party delegates in a secret ballot at a specially gathered party congress. The to party’s charter requires there to be a congress held once a year, at which the party leadership is chosen. A new computer program had been created especially for this meeting, and it was the first time electronic elections were held using the program. By secret ballot, republicans chose a new 30-member committee from 61 candidates and a 5-member audit commission from 10 candidates at yesterday’s congress, which was the fourteenth party congress. David Usupashvili was reelected party leader, taking on his third period at the helm of the party. Members explain the outcome with the fact that Usupashvili has a high approval rating in the party. The new leader promised that the Republican party will soon be a player in an important political process. He laid out his views on a potential partnership with businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and the party of Irakli Alasania, and estimated that the alliance will be operational ...

News

NATO demands more reforms in Georgia

by | November 10, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Ambassadors from NATO member countries yesterday reaffirmed their commitment made at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that Georgia will become member of NATO, but made it clear that membership will require further reforms in the country. They made these statements after a meeting of the NATO-Georgia commission in Tbilisi. According to NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Georgia has moved closer to the North-Atlantic alliance. “Georgia is very important to NATO and I know that NATO is important to Georgia. The Alliance fully supports reforms in Georgia and your aspiration to join the Alliance. We all agreed that Georgia will become a member of the Alliance in 2008 in Bucharest, and this decision is still valid,” he said. “Now I’m saying that Georgia has moved closer to the Alliance. Our annual reports clearly indicate that Georgia has implemented number of reforms and the progress is evident; but it’s also obvious that there are still some works to be implemented,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen adds. Due to his explanation, ‘some works’ are the reason why he cannot say ‘specifically when Georgia has to expect ...

News

New refugee status in Georgia

by | November 9, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia will change the way refugee status is regulated, after a bill was introduced in parliament. The new bill on Refugee and Humanitarian Status is quite lengthy in comparison with the 1998 Law about Refugee Status, which it replaces. The government explains the changes with a need for legal refinement on a number of issues: to have a definition of the legal standing of people with refugee and humanitarian status and a need to fall in line with international standards. The background to the new bill reflects widely accepted international legislative principles, enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugee Status and the 1967 Protocol on Refugee Status, according to a note explaining the bill. According to the law, something called 'humanitarian status’ will be written into Georgian legislation. This status will be given on humanitarian grounds to a person who cannot fulfill the necessary requirements to receive refugee status, whilst it’s impossible to return the person to his or her place of permanent residence. After illegally crossing the border, a person seeking for shelter in Georgia will be obliged to apply ...

News

Two die in mining accident

by | November 9, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Two workers died in a coal mine in Tkibuli in west Georgia after a shaft ceiling collapsed Sunday evening. 12 workers have lost their lives in the same mine over the last two years. The collapse led to the death of Bondo Mikheladze (61) and Tamaz Gordadze (55), according to a statement released the following day by operator company Saknakhshiri, a subsidiary of Georgian Industrial Group (GIG). The statement says: “According to preliminary information, the accident was caused by a massive mining concussion.” The cause of most accidents in the mine has been given as negligence by the workers. But the Georgian Trade Union says that it’s really difficult to determine what is causing so many explosions and accidents at the mine. Viktor Dolidze, chief technical inspector of Georgian Trade Union thinks many accidents are really caused by small vibrations. “Small vibrations happen frequently at mines. It’s always very hard to find out what really happened. They usually keep the other defects behind ‘massive concussions’ secret. Safety rules are often violated in the coal mine,” Dolidze says. Tamaz Dolaberidze, leader of the ...

News

Some NGOs ready to cooperate with Ivanishvili

by | November 8, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Some of the Georgian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are ready for a political partnership with the billionaire turned opposition leader who is the main threat against incumbent president Mikheil Saakashvili's rule. On Monday November 7 tens of Tbilisi based NGOs met with Bidzina Ivanishvili, answering his invitation. The meeting lasted for two hours and was held behind closed doors. Afterwards discussion continued as those present pointed out what they see as the main hindrances to a democratic development in the country. At the beginning of the meeting Ivanishvili noted that today it’s most important for society to become active, and he hopes that it will be possible with the NGOs' effort. “We are well aware of today’s situation when authorities resort to violence to terrorize people and to make civil society passive, which to some extent has already been achieved,” Ivanishvili said during his opening comments. “It’s our duty today together with you - and I know you have big experience in this - to manage the activation of civil society and this way weaken the repressive apparatus,” – he went on, ...

News

President gives unconstitutional promise

by | November 8, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Saakashvili promises that the first session in the brand new parliament building in Kutaisi will be held on May 26, 2012. To keep this promise it is necessary to either violate the constitution or change it. The third part of the current constitution, which was amended last year this time, deals with the rules for how parliament functions, its powers and responsibilities. “The parliament’s location is the town of Kutaisi,” this chapter says. “To convene after the summarizing protocol of the results of the next elections has been published by the Central Elections Commission.” This means that parliament’s location until the next election is Tbilisi, and convening in any other place would violate the constitution. Despite this fact, the president states that Parliament’s first session in Kutaisi will be held on May 26, 2012. He made this statement at a meeting with the parliamentary majority. “We all agreed that parliament’s first session will be held in Kutaisi on May 26. Not only one session, but parliament will be ready to hold sessions in Kutaisi,” Mikheil Saakashvili stated at Monday's meeting. This is the second ...

Opinion

Strictest Punishments for Minor Violations and Ignored Human Rights

by | November 8, 2011

Around 4 000 people are sentenced to administrative imprisonment in Georgia every year. Administrative imprisonment is a purely Soviet mechanism, which remains in effect only in some post-Soviet countries (with the exception of Germany and Austria, where it operates in a different way) and which is broadly used and utilized to the full extent in Georgia. As a result more than ten people a day are sentenced to up to 3 months of imprisonment for minor violations. More importantly, not even minimum protections for human rights are ensured in this process. For instance, those sentenced to administrative imprisonment have to serve their prison terms under the harshest conditions and can be subject to inhumane treatment. It is rather difficult to explain the meaning of “administrative imprisonment” to the civilized world. In essence, it means that for minor violations that do not amount to crimes, individuals can be punished as though they have committed a crime, e.g. for violations of traffic rules, rules for assembly and protest, etc. Due to the presence of administrative imprisonment in Georgian legislation, persons who commit such minor ...

Opinion

Waiting for the next exam

by | November 8, 2011

Neither the government, nor the opposition, nor civil society passed the democracy exam on November 7, 2007.  I’m not writing memoirs about November 7, 2007; nor am I writing a requiem for the young Georgian state. I don’t even want to remember the government's hot-headed actions – how they showed no mercy to citizens or even media equipment. I’m not interested in the political opposition’s chimerical union of those days. I want to discuss with you a democracy test; civil society will be obliged to pass the test sooner or later if it wants to be the founder of a modern state. This test contains several important issues, and no part of social-political life passes it: The government should adopt itself in a pluralistic environment and should live in such an environment. Georgia’s all post-Soviet leader claims that he will create a democracy and it will be out of his mercy. The government can’t create a democracy. At most it can live in a democracy and not suppress social initiatives with force. And force is always a prerogative of the government. On November 7 of 2007 ...

News

No November 7 commemoration today

by | November 7, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Political parties are not planning any commemoration of the events of November 7, 2007. Only the Labor Party had planned a rally which was already underway at 15. But that is held to demand the resignation of president Mikheil Saakashvilli. Former member Nestan Kirtadze calls the event a ‘political adventure’. On November 7, 2007, police forcefully dispersed a peaceful protest camp in front of parliament organized by the opposition. Police also stormed the TV channel Imedi and used force against the journalists while they were live on air. The events of November 7 lead to president Sakashvili temporarily stepping down and scheduling a snap presidential election the following January. The police' actions that day have not been investigated up until today and no charges have been brought to bear on those responsible. At the end of October, the newly formed faction Unity for Justice, a group of opposition parliamentarians, began to study the events of November 2007 and demanded that there is started an investigation with the aim to ‘establish real democracy in the country’ and because there are still ...

Environment, News

Interior minister to handle hydro power resettlement

by | November 7, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The 1970s mega project to build a dam in Khudoni Valley is moving ahead despite obscure funding and secretive implementation. Last week villagers were told they will have to leave. Their resettlement will be planned by an organization founded by Georgia's Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili (pictured). Khudoni would have been the second largest hydro power project in Georgia, after Enguri, Europe's largest. But it was stopped by an environmental campaign over 20 years ago, in which former prime minister Zurab Zhvania played a central role. But the plans have been resurrected in recent years, and in 2009, an Indian-Georgian company called Trans-Electric signed on to a Memorandum of Understanding, which seems to mean that the plans are set to go ahead. In the village Khaishi, Trans-Electric had gathered people November 4 to bring them the sad news: the 200 families who live there will finally have to leave, after three decades living next to the half-completed power station. It will be put into operation in May 2018, 73 months from now, it emerged in a report made by Zviad Tkelidze ...

Elections, News

Delay in electoral roll check

by | November 6, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - As less than a year is left until Georgians will go to the polls again, the government should have been moving ahead with a commission to go through the electoral roll, following a rush law amendment, but as of now the commission has not yet been set up. To have such a commission was part an agreement struck between the Government and part of the opposition last summer, which marked the start of a process to overhaul the whole election system in Georgia ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in the next two years. A draft was sent to the Venice Commission for final review in the end of August, and the Council of Europe body will give its verdict on the plan December 16 or 17, according to Venice Commission chairman Tomas Markert. Much of the draft includes issues agreed with the part the opposition, including electoral system reform, party financing issues, how to handle disputes in connection with elections. But it also contained some issues which was not agreed with the opposition, such as governors' right to participate ...

News

Russia to become WTO member

by | November 5, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Both Russia and Georgia have given thumbs up for an agreement which will allow Russia to become member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). But experts are asking that  ‘significant details’ be clarified before the treaty is signed. The question of Russia's inclusion into the WTO has become a pressing issue over the last few years. Part of the reason Georgia used its veto power to block membership for was the fact that Russia refused to fulfill the Georgian government’s main request, which was the opening of custom-checkpoints between Russia and Georgia and lift the Russian embargo on Georgian goods which came in the wake of the arrest of four Russian diplomats accused of being spies in 2006. It is not surprising that WTO membership has been important for Russia, taking into consideration how beneficial it would be with a simplified relationship with WTO member countries. Russia is by far the largest economy outside of the WTO, with approximately 1.5 trillion GDP annually, and its entry would mark the biggest step in the liberalization of world trade since China joined ...

Opinion

Legal review of the case of Bidzina Ivanishvili and Ekaterine Khvedelidze

by | November 5, 2011

The reason of writing this article is an unstoppable speculation of the government representatives regarding the revocation of citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze and the allegations that the revocation was a result of obtaining French citizenship and thereby violating the Georgian constitution by both of them. I have already noted a number of times that the government’s such action amounted to a violation of the Georgian Constitution. Now, basing on the facts, constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship, I will try to demonstrate illegality and unconstitutionality of president’s this decision. So, what the facts reveal to us is as follows:   1. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had been living in Russia in those days, became a citizen of the Russian Federationon a base of being a citizen of the Soviet Union. Due to this fact, as of April 1993, he could no longer have been considered a Georgian citizen, as stipulated by Article 3 of the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship of 1993. 2. In 2004, the citizens of the Russian Federation, Bidzina ...

Legal reform, News

Public Defender to get more power

by | November 4, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Public Defender in Georgia is to get a more active role in the courts and will also do more monitoring of conditions in social institutions. The slightly increased powers comes following a decision by the government, after a bill was introduced to amend the Law about the Public Defender, prepared by Lasha Tordia, chairman of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee. One of the things it does is that it will allow the ombudsman to perform as what's called Amicus Curiae (‘friend of the court’) also in the Constitutional Court. Until now, he has had this role in the two lower tiers of the court system: the city or district courts and the appeals court. A "friend of the court" means that a person having this right can help people to prepare and present an appeal; consult them and represent him or her in court. Another result of the bill is that the ombudsman will be granted access to monitor certain types of social institutions and shelters. He can enter orphanages, shelters for the elderly and psychiatric facilities. Lasha Tordia who put ...

Opinion

Risk of corruption in Georgia

by | November 4, 2011

“Georgia is number one country fighting corruption”- we frequently hear this message from Georgian Government. Government representatives talk about the achievements in fighting corruption but their opponents underline number of failures in this regards. There are also talks about elite corruption as well and some people think such kind of corruption exists in the upper bureaucracy in Georgia. By defining corruption we should remember that this is not purely bribery but also the abuse of public power, office, or resources by elected government officials for personal gain. Taking into consideration this definition can we really say that the whole anti corruption system of the country is in perfect condition? Can we really be sure that there is no opportunity for abuse of power in the country with weak parliament, judiciary, media and civil society, the institutions which primary mission is to oversee the executive branch? I think in these circumstances we can say that in spite of some achievements the anti-corruption system of Georgia has rooms for improvement. This was proved by the National Integrity System (NIS) assessment, which was conducted ...

News

New developments in Georgian power struggle

by | November 4, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - On several fronts the simmering power struggle in the southern Caucasus nation saw new developments Thursday. The fallout from challenger Bidzina Ivanishvili's first ever press conference is continuing, after he spoke on live TV in an unusually freespirited manner for Georgian viewers. One of the shocking statements on November 1 was his account of who started the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. Ivanishvili expressed his views in a way which was perceived by the government as an accusation that Georgia was first to begin the war on August 7, 2008. Ivanishvli said that judging by the Tagliavini report and the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) of the Council of Europe the Georgian side started the war. The Georgian government considers this statement a lie serving Russian interests. On Thursday, Ivanishvili’s press office released a response that based on the Tagliavini report and the PACE resolution, which was signed by the Georgian delegation, taken together both documents say that the start of the war was August 7, 2008, ‘when Georgian troops opened fire without warning in the direction of Tskhinvali [Georgia’s ...

News

Ivanishvili broadens base

by | November 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian challenger Bidzina Ivanishvili is extending a hand to the whole spectrum of opposition parties, promising to cooperate with all of them in order to remove the ruling party from power. At the November 1 press conference he was asked whether he is going to cooperate with all parties. “We will cooperate with every force. But cooperation doesn’t mean union,” he added. This signals a shift in strategy which seems an attempt at gathering all forces which are against the sitting president. In his open letter which launched his campaign three weeks ago, the financier ruled out cooperation with several opposition parties for various reasons, including the Christian Democrats and the New Rights party. Those parts of the opposition were offended by his letter at the time, but welcome his latest statements and are ready to cooperate with him, given on the right kind of circumstances. Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian Democrats says Ivanishvili changed his positions about cooperating with opposition parties and this is a good background for cooperation. But he also adds that there are still some unclear issues, and ...

News

Journalist disciplined for asking wrong question

by | November 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A journalist working for Georgia's Public Broadcaster (GPB) is under threat of being dismissed for asking a question the government didn't like at Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press conference Tuesday. The reason was that he asked a question which the broadcaster's leadership thinks is an admission that their journalists are instructed by the government about what questions to ask. DFWatch have this from a source within the public broadcaster who has asked us not to divulge the person's identity out of fear that it might also lead to him or her being dismissed. At the press conference two days ago, Irakli Tabliashvili asked a question about Georgian troops’ participation in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. As he was about to get to his question, Tabliashvili prephrased it with the phrase: “I represent the Public Broadcaster, but I assure you that I don’t have ‘instructed question.’ I’m interested in what the public is interested in.” Then he went on to ask what Ivanishvili thinks about the Georgian contingent participating in ISAF. What triggered the disciplinary action was that the GPB leadership didn't like how he ...

News

Another ‘collection of dreams’

by | November 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Government of Georgia has presented a ‘ten-point plan for the country’s development of modernization and employment for the years 2011-2015’, but experts think it's no more than a ‘collection of dreams’ that is hard to take seriously without concrete steps towards its implementation. “The Georgian government’s social-economic policy aim is to create the background for a successful, wealthy and united Georgia, where every citizen will be provided with decent living conditions and will have an opportunity to become a rich and successful member of the world’s civil society.” This is how the new document describes the aim of the plan, and the government is planning to achieve it by ‘creating places of employment and decreasing unemployment; and improving the social assistance system for disabled.” The ten points listed in the plan are: 1. Macro-economic stability; 2. Improvement of the current account balance; 3. Creating/keeping best environment for business and investment; 4. To form a regional trade and logistics center; 5. Improving infrastructure; 6. Agricultural development; 7. Improvement of the education system ; 8. Development of social policy; 9. ...

News

Government strengthens financial monitoring

by | November 1, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Experts here in Tbilisi think the government is ‘trying to find legislative methods to put pressure on Ivanishvili’, following a government initiative about strengthening financial monitoring under the pretext of combating money laundering. Amendments will be made to the law called Anti-Money Laundering Support. The initiators are ruling party parliamentarians Zviad Kukava, Andro Alavidze and Mikheil Tskitishvili. The bill defines what is considered a suspicious transaction. According to the today’s legislation, any arrangement despite transaction type and money amount is considered a ‘suspicious transaction’ if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the ‘transaction was signed or implemented with an aim to finance terrorism.’ The bill envisages that a person who ends up being categorized as sponsoring terrorism should be included onto a list of terrorists or persons who support terrorism, or people connected with them. Under the new bill a new record will be created over ‘property (including money assets) obtained or derived by criminal means on the basis of a signed or implemented transaction.’ The bill also considers restricting of number of regulations. But parliament has yet been unable to discuss ...

News

“I will impeach president Saakashvili”

by | November 1, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch- Bidzina Ivanishvili vows to initiate impeachment procedures against Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili after he has won the parliamentary election next year. The businessman made the statement Tuesday at his first and long awaited press conference. It took place in his luxurious Tbilisi business center in the front of nearly 230 Georgian reporters and local stringers for Western media. “Even though Saakashvili has made the constitution perfectly fit his own interests; when we enter parliament as a majority we will immediately begin to discuss his impeachment if he doesn’t proceed to resign,” Ivanishvili said, answering a question about how he is going to work together with Saakashvili, taking into consideration the fact that Saakashvili is going to be president for one more year after the parliamentary election, set for October 2012. Next presidential election is to be held in 2013. At today’s rather noisy meeting where journalists were literally fighting to ask their questions, Ivanishvili discussed his views on Russia and Georgia’s future relationships with this country. He has previously said that Georgia has to find its right place and have relations both ...

Opinion

Open Government Partnership Initiative and Georgia – New Challenges

by | November 1, 2011

On August 30, 2011, Georgia responded to the invitation of the President of the United States Barack Obama and the Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and officially expressed its readiness to actively participate in the Open Government Partnership initiative as “a regional leader” and to address the challenges of open governance in the 21st century http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/georgia . For experts Georgia’s such declaration seems a little bit ambitious, especially when the international society has doubts regarding the level of democracy and transparency of the current government. The Open Government Effort officially begun in New York City, on September 20, 2011 when the leaders of the 46 nations (among them was the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili) agreed about the values of the open government. The Open Government Declaration (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/open-government-declaration) was endorsed by eight states: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The partner countries in advance have agreed on certain issues. While talking about the Open Government Partnership, we have to make a short overview of the preconditions of this global initiative. On his first day in office, US ...

News

Diplomat claims dismissal was political

by | November 1, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia's honorary consul in the United States says the reason he was dismissed last week was that he refused to take down photos from his Facebook page showing the popular opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Georgia. Just four months ago, Lasha Darbaidze was the subject of praise on a TV show called Imedi Heroes, aired on one of Tbilisi's government friendly TV stations. The laudatory portrait concluded that he was carrying out his Washington duties graciously. But like others who have expressed support for a new political contender in the last few weeks, his luck suddenly changed. First his Georgian citizenship was revoked, then he was dismissed from his post as Honorary Consul. Mr Darbaidze has explained that the reason for his dismissal was that he had published a picture of the government’s main opponent on his Facebook page and refused to remove it when prompted by an unnamed person he believes was working for authorities in Tbilisi. He calls the October 24 dissmissal 'political persecution'. But from Tbilisi, the story is different. The government claims ...

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