The Year of the Rat: War, Elections, Merabishvili & the EU Summit


According to the Chinese calendar, 2020 is the year of the Rat, the first of the 12-year cycle of the zodiac. Although the pink Pig’s year is still in action until January 25th, it is clear that the new one already started showing its powers and isn’t going to wait until the end of the month. Take, for instance, the series of explosions in Baghdad, seeing first Iran attacking a US military base and its embassy and then the latter responding by assassinating two secret service generals, leading to a new military crisis between the US and Iran. From a historical perspective, it is safe to say that the Rat is definitely establishing itself as the God of War: the Russian-Georgian war of 2008, the Balkans in 1996, the Soviet Union in Mozambique, 1984. In short, if the trend continues, it might successfully substitute the Roman Mars. What should Georgia expect, considering the abovementioned chronicles? War or peace? This is the main question for now, because the issue of parliamentary elections of 2020 is under “to be, or not to be” tension, the only truth well known to all.

2019 ended without any agreement between the government and opposition about the election legislation. Although the European intermediaries are hopeful, it is still unclear whether the opposition will agree to the government’s offer to adopt the quasi-proportional system instead of the classic one. It suggests 100 proportional and 50 majoritarian mandates, but even if the government offered to hold the elections with a 140/10 proportion, the opposition would not agree as this debate is not about proportions, it is about keeping a promise; the promise the Georgian Dream leader, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, gave voters on June 24, 2019- that there would be a zero barrier and completely proportional system.

The battle is at a stage where backing the opposition could equal death, and so an agreement being reached seems highly doubtful. Quite possibly, the 2020 elections will be held according to the old system, that is with 77 proportional and 73 majoritarian, and the opposition will try to make Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream pay the highest possible political price for the lie given so publicly in summer.

In a month, the former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili will be leaving prison. Where earlier it was under question which United National Movement wing would he collaborate with, today the dilemma seems to be solved as both the European Georgia and the UNM are in the same coalition. Merabishvili will truly be an asset to the opposition, since it is openly discussing the chances of a great political deal brewing with those loyal to him within the internal affairs system.

Nor is the Georgian Dream inactive as it announces the governmental strategy. It seems a lot of majoritarian “Salomes” are being prepared, and the party “will purchase all 73 mandates whatever the cost.” The recent activities of the “rebellious” majoritarian MPs in the regions suggests this approach. It has also become known that the first 20 seats of the proportional list will be nominated by Ivanishvili, while the other 20 by the former head of parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze. Major of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze will have his quota too, but the numbers for the latter are still unknown.

The gloomy Year of the Rat predicts numerous impromptus even before the epic 2020 elections. Apart from the judges to be appointed in the Supreme Court, the General Prosecutor, Chairmen of the Justice Committee, Supreme and Constitutional Courts – all will become known this year. In spring, the Turkish Premier Erdogan will visit Tbilisi, followed by the EU Summit, where the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected. The arrival of one of the main architects of the occupation to our country will be highly risky for the government: considering it precedes the elections, how the government handles the dilemma could become a prerequisite for the outcome.

In any case, 2020 predicts interesting political events not only for the government and opposition, but for the electorate too. How pragmatic will the latter be in using the current political developments for its own as well as the country’s future?

By Zaza Jgarkava

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13 January 2020 17:02