TBILISI, DFWatch–The Central Election Commission (CEC) in Georgia has revoked the registration of a micro-party which used its right to free advertisement to call for Russian pensions and dual citizenship, accompanied by a portrait of Vladimir Putin and Russian tanks and flags.
The party ‘Centrists’ was formed by Vladimer Bedukadze, the whistleblower in the prisoner abuse scandal which gave Georgian Dream a boost in the 2012 election, and his associate, a former boss of the 1990s paramilitary group Mkhedrioni.
In a ten second advertisement, which the head of Georgia’s Public Broadcaster said they had to air because of the rules, the Centrists are promising 400 lari ‘Russian’ pensions, to introduce a law about dual Georgian-Russian citizenship and to ‘legalize’ Russian military bases, implicitly in the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
At the press briefing on Tuesday, CEC head Tamar Zhvania announced that the commission is withdrawing the Centrists’ registration for the election because the party’s chair had no legal power to chair a political party.
Earlier, on Sunday, three political parties, the United National Movement, ruling Georgian Dream Democratic Georgia and Republican Party, announced their intentions to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court demanding to ban the Centrists, because its political agenda violates the basic principles of the Georgian Constitution, namely its territorial integrity.
The controversial free election ad was aired by the Public Broadcaster’s Channel One on Saturday and features Russian President Putin, and a promise to voters of a ‘Russian 400 laris pension’ and ‘legalizing the Russian military bases’ in Georgia.
The Centrists is chaired by Temur Khachishvili, a former commander of the paramilitary Mkhedrioni group and a former minister of interior. Mkhedrioni was formed in the late 1980s by a former mafia member (in post-Soviet countries called thief-in-law), Jaba Ioseliani. The paramilitaries played an important role in overthrowing the first elected president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, as well as quelling the Gamsakhurdia supporters’ uprising in Samegrelo and the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Bedukadze is a former prison guard who published a handful of videos of prison torture two weeks before the 2012 general election. The videos sparked massive protests, and the wave of emotion is believed to have influenced the outcome of the election, handing the victory to Georgian Dream and its founder Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In the wake of the scandal, Bedukadze was enrolled in a witness protection program, but on Tuesday he wrote in a Facebook update that his protection had been withdrawn.