The Dispatch – June 9/10: Flashbacks

Namakhvani HPP: Watchdog’s Revelations – History Repeats itself in Kutaisi – Economy Minister Courts Influencers – Two Days of Drama in Parliament – Anger Management: Gakharia Bears All In Georgia, at the top, new arrivals often have closure issues – they carry around pieces of unresolved past. This is why the most important political highlights of the week contain flashbacks – some old, others new. Here is Nini with our usual updates from Georgia.The Dispatch is our regular newsletter. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil  NAMAKHVANI CONTROVERSY: NEW DETAILSDocuments Missing… Social Justice Center, a Georgian CSO studying the Namakhvani HPP controversy, said on June 8 it obtained public information that ENKA Renewables, the key company in the project, requested an additional year for gathering all required documentation for starting the construction in March. The watchdog says this finding belies the government’s claim that the HPP project has been properly studied as “false and ungrounded.” The watchdog suspects that the “9-12 months moratorium” on dam construction presented by authorities as a compromise towards the protesters was actually linked with the mentioned postponing of the deadline.Not My Problem! Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said on June 9  that the Namakhvani HPP project will not continue “under the current” terms, implying perhaps an intention to modify the November 21, 2019 Government Decree, which granted ENKA Renewables the right to use some 576,3 hectares of lands for 99 years, for a symbolic (GEL 16/USD 5) annual fee. Garibashvili said he “inherited” this problem – pointing the accusatory finger at ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia, the recent villain in GD books. Read More. KIND REMINDER PM Garibashvili, having recently announced a pivot to regions, visited Kutaisi, Imereti region, attending a bricklaying ceremony to build an Olympic pool there. Kutaisites, however, have a good memory: Mega TV, a local media outlet, reminded that back in 2016 the exact same location hosted a similar ceremony for stadium construction. The stadium was never built, the outlet says, wondering if that pool will ever be. Just to remind you, the dog-and-pony show in the regions is no accident – the ruling party needs to score at least 43% in local elections or face the early general elections.EMILY IN TBILISIWhile the HPP project remains stuck in protests, the country keeps fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, with 821 daily cases and 31 more deaths reported on June 8. Still, with vaccination expected to pick up the pace in July, the authorities ponder quick reopening die tourism. One of the recent steps taken in this direction was Economy Minister Natia Turnava meeting influencers from various parts of the world, which are expected to share their travel stories with their audiences. We don’t hold our breaths.FULLHOUSE BLUES Attention-Seekers. The United National Movement, the opposition party with most seats, joined the Parliament on June 8, as the MPs continue debating the controversial Amnesty law foreseen by the EU-brokered April-19 Agreement. Now that most parties are represented, the sessions are precisely as bad as one would expect: yesterday, the UNM – the attention-seeking party it is – entered the plenary room late, when the session was halfway through, with the party chairman Nika Melia expected to make a speech.Attention-Givers. The Georgian Dream, however, just abruptly ended the session and walked out rather than listen to Melia’s statement. Later, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, GD faction head, confessed with a profound excitement that the procedural move was done “on purpose” to leave the UNM astonished.Second Round. Things did not get better the next day: MP Melia finally had his word but was interrupted by GD MP Irakli Zarkua, who handed him a bottle of water because – he later explained – the UNM Chair got too excited and lost his voice. Melia responded to the move by calling the ruling party MP “a tragic event.” And this was only the beginning: the June 9 plenary saw more confrontation, and the personnel had to intervene lest it came to blows.More Fights. The rest of parliamentary addresses – both from the ruling party and the opposition – were largely devoted to merry mudslinging. No big change here, GIP, a think-tank, found that in the previous election campaign, the parties largely ignored the Code of Conduct they themselves adopted, violating it no less than 300 times during 10 days of prime-time TV shows. So the current turbulence is, sadly, predictable: there is not much time left to attract voters before the 2021 October local elections.We say, huzzah, first days of the full parliament, well played! Whatever the game it is you are playing though, Ladies and Gentlemen, the loser is, definitely, the public interest.DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGERUnresolved issues featured high outside the parliament building too: Ex-PM Gakharia’s continued silence about the internal party intrigues during his tenure in office does not apparently extend to more recent anger: commenting on coup- and UNM-alliance allegations that his former party colleague Irakli Kobakhidze leveled on June 8 talk-show appearance, the former Prime Minister could not contain the outrate. He said he was left alone in the parliament to fight off the opposition criticism after the June 20 protest dispersal, while his party colleagues were nowhere to be found.In the meantime, MP Kobakhidze is not getting tired of calling Gakharia a traitor, hoping it sticks: the ruling party chairman compared the former PM to a cuckoo bird that puts eggs in Eagle’s nest. The ornithologists promptly remarked that it would be very unwise for a cuckoo to lay eggs in a carnivore’s nest… We are sure Mr. Kobakhidze will clarify his remarks from the evolutionary (or perhaps, creationist?!) point of view.In the meantime, if pent-up anger and flashbacks are your cups of tea, the key takeaways from Gakharia’s June 8 talk are here. That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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