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Nika Chitadze: Radicalism Remains a Major Problem of Society

By Leila Naroushvili
Georgia Online, 12 September '12

Election situation in Georgia is heating up. Large number of observers has been registered. Both parties are counting down the days before the October 1 elections. All parties are actively campaigning for votes while fighting against each other. At the same time, Russia is rattling with weapons and plans military exercises "Caucasus-2012", which is a concern not only for Georgia, but also for the international community. The illegal armed formations made up of citizens of Russia and Georgia, which appeared in the Lopota gorge in Eastern Georgia on the eve of elections, further enhanced the degree of tension in the country. "Georgia Online" offers an interview with the head of the Georgian International Security Research Centre professor Nika Chitadze.

The election race is gaining momentum. Do you think Georgia will be able to pass the test for democratic elections?

This autumn is very intense and it is related to the fact that for a certain segment of society any idea that differs from their own, is unacceptable. This is true even in case of many journalists and NGO representatives. They are annoyed when a person has different opinion. If you remember, similar tensions prevailed during the last elections.

Usually, everybody blames the ruling power saying that the authorities ignore a different view, authoritarian regime is formed in Georgia, there is no freedom of speech, etc. But despite the fact that the authorities make some mistakes, I still have to say that in most cases opposition parties are leading in intolerance towards different views.

Long before the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2007-2008 representatives of the radical opposition were declaring that if they would not be satisfied with the outcome of elections, they would protest in the streets. I remember right after the last parliamentary elections, one of the leaders convened voters "who did not sell their voice" to the stadium to protest against the elections, the results of which had not even been calculated. Why do I remember? Citizens, who filled the stadium, were applauding to one of the so-called politician who was carried into the stadium on the shoulders of his supporters.

Those protesters, lived better before the Rose Revolution, and had a good income, and now this income is gone. But the old ruling class and its servants, received their income illegally, by stealing the budget and the total corruption, which is why the majority of the population were receiving pensions, salary etc. out of time and sometimes did not get it at all. Today, they all gathered around one person, which has billions of dollars.

Have there been any structural or content changes with the arrival of "money bag" in politics?

The mentality has remained the same ... In the first place; their actions are aimed at radicalization of the situation, as it was in November 7, 2007. On the one hand, the authorities have used excessive force, which for me is unacceptable, for example, stormed Imedi television, but on the other hand, on the radio Imedi was heard the call for "an end of this government" - and it is nothing but a call for a crime.

Do you remember how Irakli Okruashvili became a martyr worthy of sympathy and support, but before that the opposition used to call him nothing but a bloodsucker. As soon as he joined the opposition, and said that the late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was killed somewhere else and then moved to the apartment where the murder was recorded, it caused a wave of outrage against the opposition of President Saakashvili. But no one had an idea: why did Okruashvili say nothing, when hi was defense minister? How did "vampire-Okruashvili" turned into an opposition political leader? And today, this type of thinking remains: if he is with "them" - then he is a bloodsucker, and if with "us"- with the opposition, then he is just Irakli [Okruashvili]

As for the political entities that have entered the "Georgian Dream" coalition, they have mutually exclusive foreign policy aspirations. For example, the Republicans are known as the pro-Western political parties, as the Conservatives and the Party Koba Davitashvili, are pro-Russian. The question arises: what is the ideological platform able to unite politically irreconcilable actors - National Forum, Republicans, the Free Democrats, Conservatives and everyone else who entered the coalition? - The answer is simple - all of them are united not because of political views, but a desire to gain access to the bottomless money of Ivanishvili.

If not money, hardly anyone would recognize as their leader a man who claims that Georgia started the war in August 2008, Georgia is guilty of the fact that Russia imposed an embargo and banned Georgian products, mineral water, etc.. When one of the leading members of the coalition, its chief lawyer Kbilashvili was asked who was responsible for starting the war - Russia or Georgia, the man, a lawyer by profession, said he was not an expert, and so could not answer that question. A first number in the coalition election list a footballer, a politician Kakha Kaladze said that he does not care who attacked whom: Russia - Georgia, or Georgia - Russia ...

Today, the coalition is not preparing for the election but the day after election October 2 and 3. They are threatening to organize protest demonstrations, if they lose, by the way, according to opinion polls it is very likely to happen. It was the same in 2008, during the presidential elections. Then, Mathias Yorsh, EU representative, after a meeting with the opposition, said: Unfortunately, the opposition is not prepared for the fifth of January, the day of the election, but for the sixth. The same is repeated today.

Regardless of the quality of elections, the opposition will still scream that the elections were falsified. They are permanently unhappy with everything: "must carry" was imposed for the campaign period, but then they began demanding the extension of must-carry after the elections.

Regardless of any positive change in the country, the eradication of organized crime, the widespread rehabilitation of infrastructure, increased production of electricity, unprecedented growth in tourist - they tell the public that the government does not do anything and ignore the huge positive changes in our country. The radicalism remains a major problem of our society.

Will Ivanishvili permit further radicalization after the election?

I think that his purpose is exactly this: to challenge the election results and to bring their supporters into the street, because he has no other way. From the very beginning, he was sure that could easily win the election by bribing voters. In his first interview, he said he would win the election and would receive the overwhelming majority in parliament. What does it mean? He does not ask us, the voters? This can be solved only by us, the citizens of Georgia. As for the elections, Ivanishvili will try to bring as many people as possible in the streets to draw attention of the international community. Undoubtedly, there will be a provocation, as it was on May 26, 2011.

On the eve of the Independence Day of Georgia, the opposition blocked the avenue, where a parade in honor of the national holiday had to be held, to provoke government's forceful reaction. And they knew very well that such reaction was inevitable, but deliberately went to the provocation to disrupt the parade, to discredit the government in the world community. They hoped that those events would have a negative impact on the image of our country and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia would be delayed. Naturally, any government must respond to such anti-state provocations, the main thing is to try not to use excessive force against unlawful actions.

The current electoral situation is very different from previous, in the major rallies, where Bidzina Ivanishvili has a speech most other politicians are almost denied the right to participate - he sort of pushed them into the background, only he is seen and heard. How, the principles of democracy are followed in the coalition?

Needless to speak about democracy within the coalition. Many of its members, when they were in power, had senior positions, such as Irakli Alasania was the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN, Alexi Petriashvili, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to Turkmenistan, Victor Dolidze, Georgia's ambassador to the OSCE, as well as many others. Republicans in 2004 became parliament members by the party list of the National Movement, but then became the opposition. The same can be said about Dzidziguri, Davitashvili and many others.

Want to ask when were they sincere, while argued that Georgia was successfully implementing reforms and moving forward, or when after losing theiur"warm place", turned 180 degree around and began to argue that Georgia has authoritarian regime and it rolls into the abyss?

I think they are very prone to conformism and at the moment, the most important for them all is to get the most benefits from Ivanishvili, and in return they give him a chance to be the sole leader. Often, in their speeches coalition members do not say that specific political party or coalition comes to the power, they call the name of only one person - Bidzina Ivanishvili.

At one of the opposition rallies as banner was saying: "A long, long time Georgia was asleep, but with appearance of Bidzina it have awoken!". This is the signs of the personality cult, when all decisions unilaterally are taken by the leader-father-breadwinner. In terms of business management, Ivanishvili is typical authoritarian manager, he does not ask or agree with anyone about an important issues: for example, none of the coalition members were notified about the planned meeting with Nino Burjanadze.

Ivanishvili operates with the principle that "I am paying, so I order the music". He reigns supreme within the coalition and its members have lost independence of thought, by becoming completely financially dependent on his cash inflows. Marcel Proust said, Happy is one who depends on himself, but when you lose your independence, you sell your freedom, you become a slave. Erich Fromm in his book "The "Fear of Freedom" writes that some people tend to give up their freedom and become dependent on the leader, who will decide for them their fate. And in our case, the opposition politicians are not independent political figures - when they make different statements, they only give voice to Ivanishvili's directives. They are united by one thing – his financial resources.

What political ideology do they carry? Right, left? It is impossible to determine. We know that the National Movement – is a political party with the right attitude. The same can be said of the "New Right", the Christian Democrats are more inclined to conservative ideology, but what can we say about the coalition of "Georgian Dream"? It is difficult to answer, because for them the main thing is to come to power, whatever it takes. On the language of political science this is defines as political extremism. They are a force that tends to rock the situation in Georgia in order to let their main client - the Kremlin see it and reward the most active part of them.

But the ruling party makes mistakes, and to some extent they are authoritarians. There are instances when they skip a debate with the opposition, or do not respond to requests of ordinary people, that represent them from the negative side.

Confucius has a saying: every man is fallible. Tell me, what is his fault and I will say what he is. When we talk about the mistakes of individual politicians or political parties, we must compare these errors with what they have achieved and done. During the election campaign the ruling party made some mistakes. Perhaps some members of the ruling party refused to give an interview to "Info-9", which is owned by Ivanishvili, but on other opposition channels, for example on "Maestro" and "Caucasia" they constantly come to be involved in tough debates.

Today electronic media is more balanced than in the past, which happened due to introduction the "Must Carry" rule, most of the citizens of Georgia have the opportunity to receive a signal of opposition channels, "Info-9", Maestro, Caucasia, Channel 25.

On Public Broadcaster here are the pre-election debates, on Rustavi2, almost every day representatives of the opposition participate in the debates. 2nd channel is entirely devoted to political debates and speeches of politicians. Printed media is fully opposition; relatively more or less balanced is only newspaper "24 hours."

Therefore, I believe that the current election campaign is surely close to the generally accepted standards. Of course, I do not believe that the ruling party is perfect, for example, there are problems with the labor law, which is aimed primarily at supporting the employer, not the employee, there are problems in the judicial system and of course, there are mistakes and the part of the population expresses dissatisfaction.
This situation will always be like this, but the main thing - is the percentage of dissatisfied. Despite our problems, the majority of Georgia's population believes that the country is moving to the right direction, but it does not mean that we have to protect the government from criticism.

Recently, Russia has officially joined the WTO. What will be changed in relations with Georgia?

Although Georgia was the only country to veto Russia's accession to the WTO, in the past two years an agreement was reached between Russia and Georgia. By voting for Russia's accession to the WTO, Georgia, at the same time, was able to defend its interests, and Russia had to agree on letting Swiss observers to stand at the customs border of Georgia and record the export-import of goods, and then transmit the information to the relevant structures of Georgia. I mean that the observers will be located at the border of the river Psou, at the Roki Tunnel and at the Georgian section of the Upper Lars. Yet, we can only say that in 2010, the trade turnover between Georgia and Russia was about USD 260 million, mainly due to the export and import of electricity. It was beneficial to both parties. We'll see what happens after the official accession of Russia in WTO.

How to record where are the borders in this contract?

Maybe Russia does not officially recognize the Russian-Georgian border at the Roki Tunnel and Psou River, as it recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But the reality is this - de facto Russia recognizes the economic- customs border of Georgia, as the Georgian specific structures will officially receive information on the turnover. Thus, de facto, Russia recognizes the economic border of Georgia – on a river Psou and Roki Tunnel.

On August 28, during special operation an armed group was arrested. Can it provoke tensions with Russia?

I do not think that Russia will be able to take advantage of this and use aggression against Georgia, because we are talking about the neutralization of an armed group members, and based on that, even if Russia really wants to invade Georgia, it can not use the fact of neutralizing gangs as an excuse to attack. Regarding the complexity of relations with the North Caucasus, the fact that some of the republics of the North Caucasus are governed by anti-Georgian Ramzan Kadyrov and Teimuraz Mamsurov, complicates the Georgia-North-Caucasian relations. On the other hand, the very North Caucasian population has sympathy towards Georgia. As Georgia has opened its borders and has introduced a visa-free regime for the residents of North Caucasia and later for the whole Russia. We can not exclude some attempts of revenge by relatives or friends of the victims. But by and large, this incident will not cause the radical change in relations.

As for the Georgian security forces, I think they made the right decision. It is known that they were negotiating with them [armed group members] and offered them to surrender, but the members of an illegal armed group refused. Of course, it is very unfortunate that people died but similar operation, even in much more developed countries than Georgia, often do not go without casualties. So Georgia is not an exception.

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