Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Monday, August 29, 2005

Georgia On My Mind......

You may remember a few days ago I published an article regarding the arrest of Shalva Ramishvili, the Georgian journalist arrested on extortion charges this Saturday.

Well the situation is developing now, as well as going on hunger strike, Mr Ramishvili has made his first court appearance

Naturally he claimed innocence, but as the Georgian newspaper '24 Saati' points out, the government should investigate Koba Bekauri (The MP involved in the scandal) and his activities, otherwise doubts will persist that the authorities are only silencing the unfavorable media and not fight corruption. Bekauri is alleged to have taken an interest-free loan of US $150,000 - from an Israeli-based Georgian businessman. According to the law, an interest-free loan is the same as a gift and public servants can only accept gifts if the value does not exceed 20 times the minimum cost of living. $150,000 is grossly in excess of that.

Ramishvili has now been sentenced to three-months in pre-trial custody. Quite why is beyond me, its not like he's a dangerous criminal or anything. As to be expected a host of opposition politicians have attacked the move, unfortunately I cant find the site, but one raised the issue of "attempting to silence the independent media ahead of the upcoming by-elections"

For those interested in the somewhat questionable make up of the Central Election Commission, heres an interesting article from the excellent 'Civil Georgia'

The main problem with the new CEC is that it is packed with "independents". A good idea in theory, rather than packed with representatives of the political parties, as was the previous case but fails in practice. Gia Kavtaradze, for example is the new Chairman of the commision. Yet in 2002 he founded the legal and financial consulting firm DVNK with current Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli. The whole process has been tarred by the fact that Saakashvili proposed a short-list of 12 nominations, plus one nominee for the Chairmanship to Parliament from 515 applicants. Yes, thats the same parliament stacked with well over 2/3's of Misha's supporters. Quite where 'transparency and accountability' come into that process is a mystery to me.

I pray these elections are free and fair, for the Georgian peoples sake. Theyre too politically tired for another confrontation with the government and so Misha can ride roughshod with whatever policy he chooses. Or perhaps he realises this, and senses his chance to slide towards authoritarianism unquestioned. If the government is planning to rig the elections, then it really begs the question, "why?". Losing 5 seats is hardly going to dent their massive majority, but it sure will dent any dreams of NATO or EU membership. Bush's drive for democracy can do without Georgia tainting it with a brand new dictator, and Georgia's stability and economy can do without it being stained with yet another rigged election.


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