December 30, 2013, six veteran criminals [aka “criminals in law,” holding considerable authority in the underworld] had been released from jail under the Ivanishvili administration in Georgia, in keeping with the newly passed amnesty bill, Deputy Minister for Corrections and Legal Assistance Grigol Giorgadze told the media. A number of experts regard this as a sign of gratitude, on the part of the president of the Republic of Georgia, for the support his Georgian Dream Party received that allowed it to beat Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement Party.
Georgia’ websites read that such criminal bosses, once released from jail, must leave the country within 24 hours, under Article 223 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Georgia.
The Day asked its experts to comment on the following:
1 There are media reports about six criminal bosses released from prison in Georgia. Some analysts believe that President Ivanishvili did so to keep his campaign promises.
2 Blogger Catherine Kotrikadze told Echo of Moscow that Georgia would doubtlessly waive NATO membership. Georgian Speaker David Usupashvili said there were no plans for resuming CIS membership. Is Ivanishvili planning to withdraw from EU and NATO, considering his efforts to make peace with Russia, while being tongue-lashed by Europe and the US?
3 While in Davos, Ivanishvili, then Prime Minister of the Republic of Georgia, told local businessmen that the situation in Georgia wasn’t as good as demonstrated by international ratings, that this was the kind of stuff President Saakashvili was using to keep the investors happy. How do you feel about this statement, considering that it is sure to damage Georgia’s international reputation?
4 Another blogger, Yulia Latynina, says three months have passed but that Bidzina Ivanishvili has done nothing to keep his promises.
GEORGIA’S VALUE ASSESSMENT IS BRINGING IT CLOSER TO RUSSIA
Nika CHITADZE, political analyst, Tbilisi:
1 “This possibility should be seriously considered. Even before the presidential campaign Georgia’s [official] channels showed known underworld bosses telling the electorate to vote for Georgian Dream. It is safe to assume that there were ties between them and Georgian Dream at the time, and these ties are still there. As it was, the local famiglias were among the GD potential campaign supporters after the party had proclaimed its extensive amnesty program. There are channel videos with GD functionaries conversing with suspicious characters. Ivanishvili’s amnesty effort is proof of his trying to keep his promises, particularly in regard to the so-called prisoners of conscience and other convicts allegedly illegitimately thrown behind bars under the Saakashvili regime.”
2 “Georgian Dream is well aware that most Georgians are for a more active collaboration with the EU and NATO, so they can’t afford to openly declare Georgia’s re-orientation toward Russia. Georgia, however, is deviating from its previous European course, as evidenced by GD’s latest moves – I mean the attempts to usurp power and apply a double standard domestic policy. All this is proof that, in terms of political value assessment, Georgia is getting closer to Russia. Georgia may stay outside the CIS, but may well cooperate with Russia – the worst possible scenario, with Europe and North America becoming convinced that Georgia has rejected the European values.
“We know that Ivanishvili attended the Russian luncheon in Davos, and that a Russia-Georgia business forum is slated for April. I expect a number of Russian business people – many acting hand in glove with the Russian government – to attend this forum in Georgia. There is a big difference between statements and actions.”
3 “I feel about it both ways. The sad fact remains that Ivanishvili and other Georgian Dream functionaries are placing their personal ambitions far above the national interests. We hear that [the international community] has placed Georgia ninth on a list of countries with transparent business, then we hear those ‘upstairs’ in Georgia calling this a pack of lies. Why? Because they want us to believe that business remained unprotected under Saakashvili. This is an attack against the [former] head of state. On the other hand, this is proof that those currently in power are nearsighted, considering that a number of potential foreign inland investors will lose interest in Georgia. Another reason is that Ivanishvili is waging information warfare against the previous regime. He wants to demonstrate to the Georgian in the street that everything done before his coming to power was a sham, because Saakashvili and his United National Movement Party had lobbies within international organizations. Ivanishvili doesn’t completely trust the World Bank’s data. Another factor that may cause such potential investors to turn away from Georgia. Regrettably, quite a few Georgians in the street believe him.”
4 “There were big expectations in November. Some of Saakashvili’s party members found themselves disillusioned. Ivanishvili pays those who are prepared to commit acts of violence. These characters influence local authorities, and so on. Georgian Dream may lose a number of supporters after this party fails to keep its major promises, yet the violence-oriented GD members may apply the good old techniques during the next presidential campaign, in some or other electoral districts. This would be the worst political scenario for Georgia. It is for Ivanishvili to decide on NGO’s and ‘independent experts.’ All this is proof that the man wants the Georgian public brainwashed.”
WE CANNOT POSSIBLY HAVE ANY OTHER OPTION THAN THE WEST
Lasha TUGUSHI, editor-in-chief, newspaper Rezonansi:
1 “I have never heard of this. Mafia bosses are not subject to amnesty. This information is not true.”
We found it on the website Georgia-Online which quotes the deputy minister for penitentiaries, probation, and legal assistance.
“I haven’t heard of this up to this day. My information says that mafia bosses served prison terms under the specific clauses that envisage no amnesty. Nor have I ever heard that Ivanishvili or somebody from his inner circle spoke about the release of such prisoners. Everything was just the contrary. They were saying that prison is a proper place for mafia bosses, thus confirming their consent with Saakashvili’s policy in this matter. The same applies to the entire Georgian society which has reached a consensus about this.”
2 “There is a consensus in Georgia about this, too, – nobody wants to go back to the CIS. It is a bygone stage, and it is not interesting for us. Secondly, I do not think Georgia will veer of its course towards NATO. It is an existential question, where we have also reached a high consensus. Nobody can change the decision of people. We cannot possibly have any other option than the West. So I do not agree with the colleagues or experts who doubt this.”
3 “I heard our premier commenting that he had never said this and was misquoted. It is, on the contrary, very good that some surveys showed positive results and high rankings. I think the premier is also aware of this. The fact that he spoke and explained his views means that he is open to criticism. Ivanishvili understands that we have a lot of things to improve and if there are some problems, they should be addressed in transparency. Only a shortsighted government can be afraid of criticism.”
4 “You can either like or dislike the government. If facts are anything to go by, the promised compensations began the other day. Yet it is quite a complicated process. As for high-profile infrastructural projects, they are also beginning to be carried out. I would not be saying so categorically that nothing has been done from what was promised. The law on courts, which the new leadership promised, has already been submitted to parliament and gone through the first reading. There also are other bills that are supposed to change the situation because they are aimed at certain reforms. Besides, only three months have passed, so zealous critics of the new government are somewhat overdoing it. There are people who always supported Saakashvili, and they are now very critical of Ivanishvili. For example, I also disagree to some points in the law on amnesty. But it would be wrong to judge about things in ‘back-and-white’ colors. We should wait for another two or three months and only then pass more profound judgments on the new leadership.”