Seeking a Real Political Alternative: Ogden on those Embarrassing Politicians


As I recall mentioning weeks ago, I hate repeating myself (if you'll pardon the paradox), but this week I feel the need to do so.

Last week, two Georgian politicians engaged in a pathetic attempt at a fight on national television. This week, two other Georgian politicians decided to follow suit. In both instances, violence could have been avoided without difficulty; in the first incident, a Democratic candidate failed to maintain the moral high ground over a Stalinist party member, a failure equal to calling your new partner by your ex's name. Although the Stalinist hurled a pen, it was the Democrat who launched the first flailing attack.

This week's main event also featured a Stalinist party member (their true name is the 'Industrialists,' which in my mind alludes to Stalin's brutal Five Year Plans; true to their ideology, I suppose), but the circumstances were rather more amusing and alarming in equal measure.

A member of Paata Burchuladze's bloc (numbered '1'; more on them in a moment) was debating with an Industrialist. Burchuladze's representative is heard to claim that the Industrialist party and its leader, Gogi Topadze, support the Russian Federation; this statement is beyond contestation, since Topadze himself claims that all Georgian citizens should be granted Russian citizenship.

This startling truth, however, prompts the Industrialist to angrily hurl a glass of water at his opponent, who at first puts his hands in his pockets as though unwilling to engage in violence, before changing his mind, as the female host comes between them, and attempts to throw his own glass. This results in his arm cracking the lady around the side of the head, thus proving once again that women are usually the victims of violence in Georgia.

Western institutions are rapidly losing credibility in Georgia, mostly due to a string of unfulfilled promises from the EU and NATO, but also due to electoral oversight organizations visiting the country and noting 'improvements and a calm environment'. Turn the TV on, chaps, they're still slapping each other around and hurling glasses of water all over the place.

Georgian politics took another hit this week when Burchuladze's coalition bloc lost one of its key parties, Girchi. Made up of former UNM members and dogged by accusations of links to former President Saakashvili and ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, Girchi struggled to forge an identity as a true political alternative, scoring just 0.6% in the polls, and so joined Burchuladze's bloc in what seemed to be a desperate attempt to win more voters.

This marriage lasted barely two months, when yesterday Girchi declared they were leaving the union due to vague accusations of blackmail from Burchuladze, which the former opera singer categorically denies.

In Georgia, accusations serve the same purpose as proven truth, but whether Girchi are in league with Saakashvili or funded by Bidzina or victims of blackmail...none of it really matters. Girchi struggled to hold electoral attention and win voters to their cause, and this is unlikely to change; likewise, the morbid suspicion of the Georgian people over backroom dealings with former officials will also remain, and the truth behind the rumors is irrelevant. Girchi and Burchuladze have shown themselves unfit to hold office. They entered a political alliance and withdrew from it shortly afterwards; hardly the action of serious politicians giving serious thought to working with other parties. Their attempt to appear as serious contenders and viable alternatives to Georgian Dream and the UNM have crashed and burned long before the election.

Foolish Georgian political wannabes making bad decisions is not, on the face of it, comparable to politicians throwing pens or water and slapping each other. The effect, however, is the same; the world's eye is very rarely on Georgia. It rarely only deigns to report on this country when something bad happens, like the zoo catastrophe last year or the war against the Russians in 2008. While national elections usually do merit a few lines of a tiny article on the BBC, nothing happening here will make the West want to live up to its word and include Georgia; blaming the West for delaying on delivering its promises is fair enough, but perhaps Georgians should think about why the EU and NATO might be inclined to do so.

The majority of Georgians still want to be part of the West (and who can blame them, seeing the alternative?); the intellectually-challenged keyboard warriors who spend their time bashing Westerners (and in usually quite good English; odd to think they've learned the language of people they hate) when they're not engaging in mother-worship are still a minority. And yet the majority need to do something. A real political alternative needs to emerge, or people need to make their politicians aware that they do not just embarrass themselves; they embarrass the nation.

Tim Ogden

29 September 2016 19:30