Georgian tycoon considering shot at presidency
Wealthy Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili says he might run for president. An election has been called for January 5. In a written interview with Reuters, Patarkatsishvili said he would campaign against Mikhail Saakashvili in order to keep Georgia.
Patarkatsishvili is a powerful and controversial figure Georgia.
He owns a majority stake in Georgia's main opposition broadcaster Imedi, which was pulled off the air in an armed police raid on Wednesday. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns the rest of the shares and has management control.
The Georgian Prosecutor General's Office has accused the businessman of ‘plotting a coup to overthrow the constitutional bodies of state power’.
Earlier on Friday the Georgian Parliament gave its support to the 15-day state of emergency announced by the President on Wednesday. All Georgian TV and radio media, except for the public broadcaster, were forbidden from reporting. Strikes and demos have also been prohibited. However, some government members had spoken to the press earlier and said that even if the parliament approved the state of emergency introduced by the President, it may yet be lifted before the 15-day limit.
Most suggested that it may be lifted by Monday.
Meanwhile, Georgian residents are complaining about the lack of sources of independent information. It's not clear whether the information blackout will end when the state of emergency is lifted.
Russian and U.S. reaction
According to a statement by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, Russia wants to reinstate its embassy staff in Tbilisi following the announcement that three Russian diplomats are to be expelled from Georgia.
During a meeting with his Georgian counterpart the he called the expulsion of Russian diplomats “strained and unnatural.”
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has once again rejected claims that Russia is behind the unrest in Tbilisi.
“Speaking of the accusations that Russia is behind what is happening in Georgia. Ask any opposition leader, ask the Georgian people, they will laugh in the face of whoever makes such accusations.
We are not interfering in Georgian internal affairs. We are not dictating to Georgian politicians what, when or where they should do anything. We are not spending hours telling them how to act. These are not our methods,” he stressed.
The U.S. has expressed strong disappointment with the Georgian authorities over their imposing the state of emergency in the republic.
The U.S. State Department is urging Tbilisi to lift the restrictions and allow the media to resume their work.
Georgian Rebel Minister denies Russia’s involvement in current crisis
One of Georgia's opposition leaders,the country's former Defence Minister, Irakly Okruashvili, who is currently in Germany, says there is no evidence that Moscow was behind the unrest in Tbilisi.
“Although, I don’t want to defend Russia, the telephone conversations between Russian embassy workers and some Georgian politicians that were aired on Georgian TV mean nothing. The President and the government have no evidence proving that Russia is behind what is happening in Georgia. They shouldn’t be looking for an enemy in a time of a crisis. They shouldn’t be looking for an enemy where there is none,” he said.
Georgia's opposition parties say they will present a single presidential candidate after Mikhail Saakashvili announced there'll be an early vote on January 5.
He says he wants a fresh mandate from the Georgian people. Saakashvili added that there would be a parallel referendum to let the nation decide on the date of parliamentary elections.
According to election procedure, Saakashvili will have to resign and hand over the presidency to Nino Burdzhanadze, with the presidential election to be held within 45 days.
As for the balloting procedure, Dmitry Babich, a political analyst from Russia Profile magazine, says it's uncertain what the process will be for electing the new Georgian President, as the rules have changed in each of the previous ballots.
Opinions in Georgia
Some Georgian opposition leaders have welcomed Saakashvili’s announcement about holding early presidential elections, calling it a victory.
Meanwhile, political analysts in Tbilisi say the decision to hold early presidential elections is a considered step aimed at outmanoeuvring the opposition. They believe it could win Saakashvili a second term as head of state.
Analysts believe that the opposition could win the election only if they agree on a single candidate to confront Saakashvili, but the experts are not sure that the President's opponents will have enough time to prepare.
Already some candidates have declared their intention to stand. Gia Maisashvili of the very recently-formed Party of the Future is one.
I wasn’t able to finish creating my party in Georgia, but I know a lot of people who were intending to join it. They’ll be ready to support the opposition candidate, and I will also support such a candidate. I don’t know how effective my work in Germany or France will be, but I’ll be trying to play a significant role to weaken President Saakashvili as it is not only in my interest, but also in interest of the nation.
He was Saakashvili's former economic adviser, but split with him shortly after he became President. His chances are seen as fairly unrealistic.
Also in the frame is David Gamkrelidze of the New Right Party, which is not a member of 10-party opposition coalition.
Together with Saakashvili and the single opposition candidate yet to be announced, this brings the current total of candidates to four.
As for the single opposition candidate, Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party would not be eligible as she is under the minimum age of 35 required to run for presidency.
Georgian rebel minister Irakly Okruashvili, who is currently in Germany, is also under the age of 35. Commenting on the current situation, he said he would try to play his part in the forthcoming events.
“I wasn’t able to finish creating my party in Georgia, but I know a lot of people who were intending to join it. They’ll be ready to support the opposition candidate, and I will also support such a candidate. I don’t know how effective my work in Germany or France will be, but I’ll be trying to play a significant role to weaken President Saakashvili as it is not only in my interest, but also in interest of the nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Salome Zurabishvili, a former Foreign Minister and the leader of the Georgia's Way Party has not lived in Georgia for the required 15 years, so would also be ineligible.
This gives the leader of the Republican Party, David Usupashvili a chance, although he probably lacks the necessary high profile and charisma to run.
Another possible candidate is Levan Berdzenishvili, a Republican MP.
If no candidate gains 50% of votes in the first round, there will be another one two weeks later. If the turnout is less than 50% of those registered to vote, there will be a fresh election in two months.
So Georgia could well enter a long period of political instability resembling that in Ukraine.
According to RT's correspondent in Tbilisi, life seems to be basically back to normal, except for the media restrictions.