Tag Archives: bidzina ivanishvili

Georgia on the Crossroad: Back to the Past?

Georgia held presidential elections and, for the first time in the country’s political history, the state will hold the second tour. This may be easily considered as a huge blow for the ruling political force, Georgia Dream. Local political opposition united around Grigol Vashadze, presidential candidate of United National Movement. Some foreign and local experts/observers may think that fierce political rivalry between position and opposition is a sign of positive democratic changes; furthermore, that Vashadze’s victory will have positive effect. Contrary to this perception, Vashadze’s success won’t lead country to better future but rather to unfortunate past.

Read more in Russian via link. The original article was published by Russian Council and can be read here.

Georgia Enslaved!

On July 24, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgian tycoon and Chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, gave a long-awaited interview to Channel One journalist Maka Tsintsadze in which he unleashed a stream of criticism of the country’s financial system, claiming that the two leading bank institutions, TBC and Bank of Georgia, have “swallowed” the state and stuck people in endless debts. Then he called this policy “shameful”.

These statements may be perceived as historic because this is the first time in Georgian modern history that a high state official has openly and decisively attacked “business” and the “business environment” that was step-by-step established following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For years, Georgian governments were not only aware of the existing economic processes in the country but were very keen to support particular political-economic approaches, which ultimately lead to a reality where every fifth individual in the state lives in poverty today. It is interesting as to why the current government and its leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili (who is an active businessman himself), were forced to openly criticize two leading bank institutions and the business environment in general. The answer is simple: Georgia can’t move on unless some significant changes are made to it is political-economic paradigm.

Shifting Paradigms

When explaining why Marxism took such extreme forms (for example, military communism) in post-Empire Russia, prominent Russian philosopher and political thinker Nikolai Berdyaev argued that it was a result of an old tradition set by Orthodoxy. For centuries, the Russian Orthodox Church demanded blind loyalty from its “flock” that dismantled critical thinking within the ranks. As a result, the new political-economic theory of Karl Marx that would have been slowly analyzed, criticized and assessed by every Western society, was turned into another dogma; another form of totalitarian thinking in Russia.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not only an appraisal against totalitarianism and a fight for national self-determination, but also a shift from planned economy to market. It was and still is logical that independent Georgian society wanted to abandon everything that the Soviet period had established, including the government’s involvement in everyday life. Local political and economic philosophers immediately picked up the so-called liberal-economic model, wholeheartedly preaching the “laissez-faire” model where the private sector was totally free from government interventions, while every single citizen was left “tete-a-tete” (Eng. “head to head”) against business. Furthermore, Georgian governments have actively tried to create the best possible hothouse conditions for the sector, frequently turning a blind eye to the growing gap between the business and Georgian societies. This approach can be easily reflected by a statement of former Georgian Minister of Economy (June–December 2004), Minister for Reform Coordination (February 2008 – February 2009), Kakha Bendukidze, who argued that it is possible to privatize everything except your own mother.

Local political-economic thinkers became enslaved by the so-called liberal model, pushing it despite opposition. As Russia before, they managed to transform this frequently criticized model into a new undisputable dogma.

The Win-Lose Game

Ivanishvili’s expression of a “swallowed” state perfectly reflects the existing socio-economic situation on the ground. Nowadays, the obsession of local elites to push the liberal economic model, without taking into consideration some important variables such as concurrency and mentality, have led to the establishment of a “win-lose” game. In this game, business is always the winner and the consumer is always the loser. Every single deal is, by default, much more profitable for the financial institution than the citizen. Moreover, the private sector feels totally untouchable and as yet has been unpunishable. In 2015, former Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili questioned why the price of oil on the local market continued to be high despite the cost of commodities falling around the globe. Garibashvili was highly criticized by various actors for interference in private sector matters. In April 2018, former finance minister Mamuka Bakhtadze (current PM) criticized the leading banks of the country for not pushing the state’s economy forward. Bakhtadze argued that the banking system should be driving Georgia’s economic development; a grand mission that is not pursued by the leading local financial institutions. Bakhtadze, as Garibashvili before him, was so harshly attacked that he was pushed to give some “explanations.” But Ivanishvili’s case is totally different. As a Georgian tycoon, the richest and most influential political-economic figure, he can finally break through barriers and focus on those clearly existent flaws. In 2012, Georgian society hoped that Bidzina Ivanishvili would lead the country to a better future. He has a chance to do it by pushing forward changes to the country’s financial system, transforming the “win-lose” game to “win-win”.

By and large, this tendency of ruling representatives expressing their dissatisfaction with the existing financial system is a reflection of dramatic socio-economic conditions. The Georgian state and society has become enslaved by its own business actors whose activities have frequently a more negative than positive impact; moreover, this negative impact is so immense that even state officials (who are actually to blame for its establishment) are pushed to recognize it. Georgian business holds both the state and society restrained and thus blocks state-development. The country’s political elite must free itself from “liberal fanaticism” and start implementing the necessary political-economic methods to ensure that local financial institutions are as free and independent as socially possible, working on the market, state and society simultaneously. Only in this scenario can the existing “win-lose” game be replaced by the “win-win” model. Only then will Georgia finally be able to move forward.

This article was initially published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here.

Veni Vidi Vici!

The newly elected parliament of Georgia approved the cabinet of ministries headed by Bidzina Ivanishvili On October 25. The Georgian tycoon kept his word given to the citizens of Georgia to celebrate victory over the already former ruling party UNM (United National Movement) in the parliamentary elections held on October 2 and become Prime-Minister of the state.

Earlier, neither political position, nor opposition seriously considered his statements, noting that Ivanishvili hadn’t had experience of being a politician. As a result, many had expected that he could have shared the fate of another Georgian tycoon– Badri Patarkatsishvili, who once challenged the UNM. Finally, Patarkatsishvili was forced to flee from the country and later found dead at home under odd circumstances. But the realm proved opposite.

“Veni Vidi Vici” (or “I came, I saw, I conquered”) is a Latin sentence reportedly written by Julius Caesar in 47 BC as a comment on his short war with Pharnaces II of Pontus in the city of Zela (currently known as Zile, in Turkey). Veni, Vidi, and Vici are first person perfect forms of the three Latin verbs Venire, Videre, and Vincere.

‘Veni’ (‘he came’)

Ivanishvili appeared in the right place at the right time. The political opposition of Georgia was dismantled and fragmented; the UNM had no doubts that it would have won the parliamentary elections; as a result, Georgian civil society as well as international organizations and strategic partners were afraid that the ruling party could repeat the path passed by Vladimir Putin in the past; particularly, the UNM could win the parliamentary elections, form a one-party parliament and Mikhail Saakashvili would have occupied the post of Prime-Minister of Georgia, thus keeping reins of power over the country after his second-presidential term would have passed.

Though challenging the government at the right time, Ivanishvili instantly became a leader who had enough power to unite the oppositional forces around him and restore the trust of the voters towards a discredited Georgian opposition; on the other hand, he appeared as a long-expected appropriate alternative for the existing government in the eyes of the West.

‘Vidi’ (‘he saw’)

The Georgian tycoon not only ‘came’ in the right place at the right time, but also he clearly analyzed and understood the distributions of the forces on the political battlefield of Georgia. He used past experience of his predecessor to avoid common mistakes.

One of the main flaws of his predecessors was the abandonment of the strategic partners of Georgia, such as the US and the EU. Broadly speaking, neither Levan Gachechiladze (former leader of Georgian opposition who lost presidential elections held in 2008), nor Badri Patarkatsishvili, had the political support of the West. The Western allies considered both politicians as inappropriate alternatives to the regime of Saakashvili and his political team.

Consequently, the first political step of Ivanishvili was to consolidate the pro-Western political parties and through them, assure the West that the new force must be allowed to govern the country; and that the new government will maintain a pro-Western orientation as well as the aspiration to join NATO.

On October 15, the newly appointed US ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, attending a civil Society Forum noted that, “we are confident that Georgia’s future is in good hands.” The gained ‘confidence’ of the US is a result of the right perception of distribution of forces on the political battlefield of Georgia, as well as the tremendous work done by Ivanishvili to prove that he is ‘axios’ (‘worthy’).

‘Vici’ (‘he conquered’)

As a result of his calculated actions, Ivanishvili became a leader of the joint Georgian opposition backed by the support of Georgia’s strategic Western allies. The victory over the UNM, which already exceeded all limits of trust and confidence, was inevitable.

The inevitability relied on two realms. The first one was the external and internal political realities. The victory of the UNM would have directly been considered as a duplication of the well-known and unappreciated political system of Russia. Both, the West, as well as Georgia’s civil society, desired to avoid such a deviation from the process of democratic development.

On the other hand, it was clear that the political misdeeds of the ruling party resulted in the loss of credibility and support of the voters; while Bidzina Ivanishvili, famous for his charity activities was ‘in the prime of his political life’. Consequently, the Georgian tycoon ‘conquered’ the reins of power despite harsh opposition from the ruling party and its leader Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili revealed the skills of the leader and politician through having a clear understanding of the political ‘game rules’ and the distribution of forces that led to the flash and absolute victory over the former ruling party in the parliamentary elections held on October 2.

Despite the fact that his team didn’t get a constitutional majority as the Georgian tycoon was aiming for on October 25, it’s definitely his ‘triumph’ on the political battlefield, which can be described as ‘Veni Vidi Vici!’ (‘He came, he saw, he conquered’). And Georgia’s civil society as well as the West should keep a close eye on him and his political team to be sure that the ‘triumph’ won’t lead the country in the wrong direction.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.

OSCE points to increasing polarization

In its second interim report published on September 24, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says that the polarization of the election campaign in Georgia “has increased.” Aimed at evaluating general issues such as the campaign environment, campaign finance, as well as media and the participation of national minorities, the report covered a period between September 6 and September19. Overall, OSCE’s report is more summary of the facts than their actual analysis.The OSCE launched the observation mission on August 22 with a core team of 16 experts in Tbilisi and 28 long-term observers deployed throughout the country.

Campaign environment

“The polarization of the campaign has increased. The tone of the campaign messages from both the UNM and the Georgian Dream coalition senior leadership and majoritarian candidates is confrontational and rough” – exclaimed the OSCE Election Observation Mission assessing the general pre-election environment in the country.

According to the interim report, the main confrontation is going to have to take place between the ruling party (United National Movement, abb. UNM) and Georgian Dream Coalition (abb. GD) led by Bidzina Ivanishvili. Both sides have chosen the policy of mutual accusations and charges. The UNM ‘questions the origins of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s assets and his political agenda in the case of victory’; meanwhile GD blames the ruling party for twisting the facts.

OSCE report emphasizes the facts of involvement of officials as well as public (administration) employees in the pre-election campaign of the ruling party. According to the document, the “UNM representatives, municipal authorities and at times the police, allegedly signal to such voters [public (administration) employees/recipients of social benefits] not to engage in opposition activities but rather attend UNM rallies.”

Campaign finance

Another important accent has been made by the OSCE on the ‘campaign finance’ issue. The report notes that about 35 cases of illegal donations [mainly in favor of the GD] were examined by the mission. In all instances, the OSCE has doubts about the fairness of the decisions taken by the Georgian courts.

“In some 35 cases examined in detail by the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, the courts have deemed the donations by such individuals illegal on the grounds that ‘the donor failed to prove the origins of the property donated,” – notes the mission and continues by pointing out that all citizens are obliged by the law to declare income and pay taxes. Still, the Law on Public Unions of Citizens doesn’t demand any documents proving the origins of the donated property to assess donation as legal; consequently, the facts of disagreement between the law and the reality create basis for criticism.

The OSCE interim report hadn’t avoided the issue of discretionary power given to the SAO (State Audit Office). According to the report, legislation grants the SAO as well as the courts “wide discretion in determining whether a donation is ‘justifiable’” which spreads doubts regarding objectivity of the institutions.

Additionally, the document complainss about the cases when “potentially illegal donors were summoned without being informed about their status as witnesses or suspects. They were body searched and deprived of personal belongings during lengthy interviews conducted in a manner that did not indicate due process.”

Media

The Georgian media environment became an issue of concern as well. According to the OSCE interim report, the media is highly politicized and tends to be biased toward the ruling party or the opposition: “…the majority of broadcasters monitored by the OSCE/ODIHR EOM appear to follow partisan editorial policies in their news and current affairs programs.”

The OSCE marked out the broadcasters mainly promoting the UNM and humiliating the main Georgian oppositional force GD: Rustavi 2, Imedi and TV Adjara. According to the report, despite the fact that all these channels are pro-governmental there are differences in their policies; in particular, Rustavi 2 is more focused on praising achievements of the ruling party; meanwhile, Imedi TV tries to humiliate the GD and spread mistrust toward Bidzina Ivanishvili and his political coalition.

On the other hand, Maestro TV as well as TV9 was recognized as the oppositional ‘mainly positive in tone, to the opposition GD bloc’. In the same time, Kavkasia TV well-known for its oppositional ‘soul’ has been considered as more or less neutral.

The only broadcaster recognized as fully neutral and who tends to promote media fairness was the Public Broadcaster (GPB). According to the report “GPB offered balanced coverage of the campaign. In the newscasts of First Channel (GPB1), both UNM and GD received similar proportions of mostly positive and neutral coverage… GPB1 has also devoted extensive coverage to further seven political parties’.

Other concerns

The OSCE mission is concerned that minority groups such as Azeri, Armenians mainly concentrated in border regions with only six MPs in the outgoing parliament are not able to fully integrate into civil society.

Finally, the OSCE responded to the latest developments in the country and exclaimed that the mission will be to further observe the political environment and assess the impact of the shocking videos [showing scenes of torture and the abuse of prisoners in prison number 8 located in Gldani, Tbilisi] unveiled by the broadcasters on 18 of September.

Responses

The representatives of the ruling party have not made any comments regarding the report. Meanwhile, the leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, noted that the OSCE mission fully reflected the existing injustice in its interim report.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.

The debate over the state system

On August 27, Georgian Dream Coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili unveiled some of the details of the ongoing debates inside the main Georgian oppositional force regarding Georgia’s state system. During his pre-election campaign, Ivanishvili visited the city of Oni located in the western part of Georgia. According to the Georgian billionaire, there is no general agreement between members of the coalition on the state system which the Georgian Dream Coalition should promote in the case of victory in the parliamentary elections set for October 1.

Based upon the interview provided by the Georgian Dream Coalition leader, Our Georgia-Free Democrats prefer a presidential system of government, while the Republican Party favors a parliamentary system. As for Ivanishvili, he calls for political members of the Georgian Dream Coalition to postpone debates regarding the issue until the parliamentary elections have been held. Additionally, Ivanishvili said that he is in favor of a parliamentary state system, but the decision has to be made by the Georgian public through a referendum.

The issue of the state system has been in the spotlight for a long time. According to the initial Georgian Constitution passed on August 24, 1995, Georgia is recognized as an independent democratic state with a strong president on the top. Opposition parties have argued that since the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Georgia has experienced failure with a presidential government.

A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch is led by a president who serves as both head of state and head of government. In such a system, this branch exists separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which it cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss.

The first president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was overthrown by Eduard Shevardnadze; later on Shevardnadze was toppled by Mikhail Saakashvili as a result of a chain of political rallies that made up the Rose Revolution. Lastly, Saakashvili has been charged by some Georgian NGOs and international organizations with abusing power. The international community forced the Georgian government to redistribute the reins of power and make the decision-making process more transparent and democratic.

Consequently, the Parliament of Georgia passed amendments to the Constitution of Georgia on October, 2010. According to the changes, the Republic of Georgia will transform from a presidential government to semi-presidential state system in 2013.

The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state. It differs from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected head of state who is more than a purely ceremonial figurehead, and from the presidential system in that the cabinet, although named by the president, is responsible to the legislature, which may force the cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence.

Vakhtang Khmaladze, who frequently comments on issues related to the constitution and now is a member of the Republican Party, said they support a classical parliamentary state system focusing on strengthening the rights and influence of oppositional blocks. In his opinion, the parliamentary state system fully conforms to Georgian realities and this is the reason why the Republican Party will further promote the idea.

A parliamentary system is a system of democratic government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their legitimacy from a legislature and are accountable to that parliamentarian body, so that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined.

On the other hand, Levan Izoria, a member of Our Georgia-Free Democrats – also part of the Georgian dream coalition – exclaimed that the presidential state system is more relevant. According to Izoria, the presidential state system will provide the country with a strong leader as well as an influential parliament; and Our Georgia-Free Democrats are ready to nominate Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania as a candidate on the post of the president.

United National Movement PM Davit Darchiashvili disapproved the debate ongoing among the opposition forces. He called for Bidzina Ivanishvili to “learn more” about the essence of politics and state structures. According to Darchiashvili, the coalition’s billionaire leader can’t discern the difference between politics and business.

Avtandil Demetrashvili, who is the author of the newest amendments to the Constitution, also expressed doubts regarding the approval of a state system via a referendum. According to Demetrashvili, the state system issue is “too comprehensive and complicated” to be solved via a referendum.

All in all, it seems that the disputes regarding the state system issue will stay on the table until a majority political force and civil society agrees on a single choice through a constructive dialog.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.

Maestro TV against Silknet on Must-carry principle

On August 8, the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) considered the actions of Maestro TV against Silknet, a cable operator, on the Must-carry principle and refused to satisfy Maestro TV’s claim. Instead, the GNCC called upon Maestro TV to provide the cable operator with all the requested equipment in order to be carried.

Maestro TV lawyer Dimitri Gabunia assessed the resolution as senseless based upon the fact that legislation passed pertaining to the ‘Must-carry’ principle doesn’t obligate news programming channels to supply cable operators with equipment necessary for broadcasting.

On the other hand, Silknet Chief Executive Officer Levan Buchukuri exclaimed that half of its subscribers can start watching Maestro TV anytime, meanwhile others can only watch once the cable operator receive the necessary equipment; he added that the only reason Maestro TV isn’t carried by Silknet so far is the channel’s unwillingness to cooperate.

The Must-Carry principle, which was launched on August 1, was adopted by the Georgian Parliament on June 29. The new legislation requires cable TV providers to carry all channels with news programming. The government has put this legislation into force for 60 days and the requirements will expire just before Election Day.

The ‘Must-carry’ legislation has continued the long-standing enmity between Maestro TV and Silknet. The dispute started on August 2 when Silknet, one of the most prominent Georgian cable operators, published an official statement refusing to carry opposition-minded Maestro TV in their broadcasting list unless the channel makes an official appeal.

In the same day, Bacho Kikabidze, Maestro TV’s general director, noted that the only company to which they would not make an appeal to carry their channel is Silknet, unless it apologies for causing the previous longstanding conflict between the two companies.

Maestro TV is one of the three most popular oppositional channels that broadcast in the capital. The others are Kavkasia and Channel 9.

The cable operator Silknet is the daughter company of the Silk Road Group, a Georgian conglomerate with business interests in transportation, telecommunications, banking and property development.

According to official data, Silknet has 65,000 subscribers in twenty-three towns across the country.

In the past, Silknet not unlike other cable operators has long been refusing to carry Maestro TV. Asked why Silknet was not carrying Maestro TV, Silk Road Group Chairman Giorgi Ramishvili responded: “We will switch it on when it [Maestro TV] behaves properly… If there is a constructive dialogue, instead of pressure, every problem can be resolved.”

With the Must-Carry rules in force, Silknet demanded special equipment from the channel to carry Maestro TV. The channel officials refused to fulfill the request and Mamuka Glonti, the Co-Owner of Maestro TV, expressed willingness to appeal to the Georgian National Communications Commission to take measures against Silknet if the cable operator did not fulfill its obligations by August 3 and include Maestro. Finally, the confrontation was re-directed to the GNCC which shared the position of the cable operator.

It seems that the rivalry between Maestro TV and cable operator Silknet will further deepen, but it is hardly imaginable that the main reason of such misunderstanding is demand for ‘appeal’ or ‘equipment’. It is more likely that the ‘Must-carry’ framework itself forces two organizations to confront one another.

The ‘Must-carry’ rules were first used in Canada in the 1970s and later in the US in 1997. The whole idea of the principle was the willingness of society to provide an electorate with comprehensive and diverse sources of information. Thus, every member of society could make informed and intelligent choices.

A lack of an alternative point of view has been seen by some Georgian NGOs, Transparency International, Amnesty International, the US former Ambassador to Georgia George Bass and other officials, as a big problem in the Georgian regions during the pre-election period. Consequently, these organizations and individuals have been supporting the idea of implementing the ‘Must-carry’ rules to provide Georgian voters in the regions with different approaches and information.

Originally, the Georgian government was opposing this by emphasizing that it is “meddling in private businesses.” However, on June 5 the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton visited Batumi and called on the government to implement the ‘must-carry’ principle. Consequently, the ruling party was forced to give up.

Silknet’s father company–the Silk Road Group, is closely tied with the government; on the other hand, Maestro TV is one of the most popular and influential opposition channels associated with the main opposition political force the Georgian Dream Coalition and, particularly, Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

By not allowing the opposition media to receive coverage in the regions, the government is attempting to maintain the status quo outside Tbilisi. Meanwhile, opposition forces believe that bringing a critical opinion to the regions will help win over the hearts of the undecided voters.

While the conflict between such heavyweights remains unsolved, it becomes clear that the issue with Maestro TV and the Silknet cable operator isn’t just a business misunderstanding and has deeper political overtones.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.

Georgia: an era of seizures, impoundments and fines

The State Audit Office of Georgia (formerly the Chamber of Control), continue a series of questionable seizures. On July 25, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to freeze the Georgian Development Research Institute (GDRI) account in the Tbilisi-based Progress Bank. The GDRI is a Tbilisi-based think-tank founded nine-months ago by two Georgian Dream Coalition members Gia Khukhashvili and Vakhtang Khmaladze, along with independent expert Zaza Shatirishvili. The institution was mainly funded by Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In its explanation letter, Tbilisi City Court emphasized that GDRI is not legally eligible to receive information about the ongoing investigation into the case, because GDRI does not represent a party into the case. As a result, GDRI is not able to even appeal the ruling regarding the freezing of its bank account to a higher court.

It is not the first time when Tbilisi’s City Court delivered a verdict against an organization or an individual tied to the Georgian Dream Coalition– particularly with regard to Bidzina Ivanishvili. The long list of seizures, impoundments and fines compels one to believe that the government has launched a ‘seizures era’ in Georgia against the Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili and all organizations, institutions or individuals somehow connected with the main Georgian oppositional force.

Everything began with the transformation of the Chamber of Control into the State Audit Office of Georgia. It is now an independent public institution, which conducts audits on the state budget, public finances and activities of the public administration. Presently, this body is actively involved in auditing the activities of political parties during this pre-election period.

Global TV, the Georgian cable operator and satellite TV provider which was forcefully closed by the State Audit Office of Georgia was one the first links in the chain. In June of this year, the State Audit Office sent documents to the public prosecutor’s office accusing Global TV of vote buying. Consequently, the organization is co-owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s brother Alexander and soon after, they had their satellite dishes seized. Global TV was the only cable operator broadcasting so-called opposition TV channels in the Georgian regions such as Channel 9.

Soon after, an ongoing investigation was launched on the oppositional channel Maestro which decided to continue supplying Georgian regions with satellite dishes so information could spill into the regions where the lack of an alternative point of view has been mentioned as a major pre-election dilemma by some Georgian NGOs and international organizations. Consequently, on June 20, the company’s satellite dishes were seized as part of an investigation launched by the chief prosecutor’s office.

According to officials, Maestro TV imported thousands of satellite dish antennas upon instructions given by Elita Burji, a company affiliated with Bidzina Ivanishvili. The main purpose of such transaction was to “bribe voters under the scheme once already used by Global Contact Consulting.”

Still one of the most notorious cases involves imposing a fine of GEL 74million on Bidzina Ivanishvili. Earlier this month, the State Audit Office concluded an investigation which resulted in Bidzina Ivanishvili being charged with the violation of party funding rules. The Georgian Dream Coalition leader refused to pay. On June 26 however, the National Bureau of Enforcement at the Ministry of Justice impounded Bidzina Ivanishvili’ shares in Cartu Bank, 21.7% shares in Progress Bank and 100% shares in JSC Cartu Group. As a result, the control over Cartu Bank and JSC Cartu Group once founded and owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili, was taken by the government.

The last famous case has to do with Kakha Kaladze, the prominent Georgian football player who was nominated for a majoritarian seat in parliament as a candidate of the Bidzina Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream coalition. Kaladze’s bank accounts were also frozen. It was similar to the case of the Georgian Development Research Institution, where Tbilisi City Court issued a decision without providing the right to appeal. The chief prosecutor’s office said that the move was part of an ongoing investigation into an “alleged legalization of illegal income i.e. money laundering”.

It seems that the so-called ‘ongoing investigation’ frequently used by State Audit Office (SAOG) and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office is heavily used to oppress opposition forces and particularly, the Georgian Dream Coalition and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. The ongoing activities of SAOG have been assessed by some Georgian NGOs and international institutions. In all cases, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, Transparency International, Amnesty International and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, have drawn the same conclusions: investigations conducted by SAOG are questionable, the government is trying to use law for its own purpose.

The doubts and criticism of the SAOG is strengthened due to the fact that the well-known State Audit Office of Georgia was hardly known before Bidzina Ivanishvili and Georgian Dream Coalition stepped into the political battle.

All in all, the tendency with regard to the SAOG’s activities forces us to assume that a series of seizures, impoundments and fines will continue until the parliamentary elections set for October 1 are finished.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.