Georgia: Political perspective through a prism of elections in one district

Lasha Tughushi, "Liberal Academy of Tbilisi" Foundation (Georgia, Tbilisi)

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Mtatsminda district elections proved to be a rehearsal for the upcoming parliamentary elections and demonstrated what political battles are to come. “Project of the century” is under threat due to competition. A joint commission on border demarcation between Georgia and Azerbaijan resumed its work.

Domestic Policy

Elections rehearsed

European Georgia and Free Democrats agreed to join forces for the up-coming MP by-elections. Shalva Shavgulidze, one of Free Democrats leaders, entered the race on behalf of both parties and was able to take part in the second round of parliamentary by-elections in Mtatsminda district that took place on May 19. Apart from this candidate, there is also a Georgian Dream candidate in the second round – Lado Kakhadze, a doctor who had previously acted as the head of Tbilisi sakrebulo (city council).

Shavgulidze was at some point a member of parliamentary bloc Georgian Dream. In 2012 this political power took over National Movement of Mikhail Saakashvili. Shavgulidze was a key figure who handled a high-profile Girgvliani murder case. Sandro Girgvliani was a young banker brutally murdered by those close to Saakashvili. It was Shavgulidze who led this case to victory in Strasbourg Court and this subsequently meant a political defeat for Saakashvili’s regime.

European Georgia is Misha’s former team, and Mtatsminda is the center of the country. This situation is critical for the former prime minister and billionaire, Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. His rivalry with Shavgulidze may lead to his defeat and this may become a very sensitive issue and a major challenge for his political team. Many political experts believe that these by-elections are a dress rehearsal of its own kind with looming parliamentary elections next year.


Port competition

Emotions run high around Anaklia deep water port, the first one of its kind in the country. The construction of the port was named as the country’s strategic priority, a guarantee of its independence. On May 2 there appeared information regarding the construction of a new deep water harbor in the port of Poti. Anaklia Development Consortium and its management perceived this news as a step towards destroying their perspectives and what is more, making it impossible to invest in the “project of the century” as this project had been dubbed by Georgian authorities.

The minister of economy and sustainable development Natia Turnava fired the head of Technical and Construction Supervision Agency who had signed the document on permitting construction in Poti. The minister ordered a special statement issued saying that she was not aware of the construction permit.

The truth is that Anaklia port, first of all, is a potential threat to Russian interests in the region due to its economic and security potential. The port is supposed to be built within only 5 km from the occupation line. Its capacity is to serve over 100 ml tons of freight, which means a serious geo-economical East-West potential.

Foreign Policy

Negotiations on the border with Azerbaijan

Georgia and Azerbaijan resumed negotiations on their border issues eight years after the previous attempt. The issue of border delimitation and demarcation resurfaced after Azerbaijani border officers had denied access to the Georgian monastery of Udabno for several days. The controversy is the following: David-Gareji is a monastery complex of about 2,5 km located on top of a rock in a desert, with a significant part of the complex situated on one of the unmarked parts of a 450-km border line between Georgia and Azerbaijan. After MFA-level negotiations the road was opened again.

The presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan discussed the matter and decided that the border issue needs to be solved – it was already during Zurabishvili’s official visit to Azerbaijan in February that Salome Zurabishvili and Ilham Aliyev reached an agreement. The delimitation and demarcation process has to be completed.

This uncertainty is a repeated cause for some tension, especially among fervent Christians. The societies of both countries closely follow the work of the intergovernmental commission which will allow Georgia and Azerbaijan to find a solution suitable for the kind of strategic partnership and friendly relations between the two countries.