Three residents of the Sachkhere district in Georgia were sentenced to 15 days for having publicly scolded President Mikhail Saakashvili. Since there is no provision in the law under which it could be possible to account for such misconduct, the delinquents were charged of disorderly conduct This transgression is punishable by a fine of 100 lari ($60) or imprisonment for up to 90 days. So the detractors of President got off easy.
However, it is dangerous not only to scold the president, but also... drink to his health (!) In the same Sachkhere district a local resident was sentenced to 15 days because he raised a toast to Saakashvili’s health but not with a glass of wine as is customary but with a glass of... beer. At the everyday level, it is considered an insult in Georgia (Germans, Czechs, Dutch, Belgians and many more might be offended here too). But again, there is no article in the Georgian law under which it could be possible to account the ill-starred beerman. Then the luckless man was charged with resisting police!
One could only laugh at what was said unless these innocent common cases showing the crackdown in Georgia, the establishing of a kind of cult of the president towards whom only praise is allowed.
It has long been known that in Georgia there is nothing like democracy whose triumph the official Tbilisi is talking about a lot and constantly. Even the Western media that usually refrain from any criticism of Mikhail Saakashvili’s actions, more frequently write that his regime is anti-democratic, point to serious violations of law and human rights in Georgia.
The officials in Washington have expressed concern about the upcoming presidential election in Georgia scheduled for 2013 (parliamentary elections are to be held this October), and about the setting in which the presidential election are prepared. This is a direct persecution of the opposition candidates and all those who are Saakashvili’s potential enemies. The U.S. straight talks about the dubious role of the Control Chamber of Georgia, about the completely odious law on financing political parties that caused outrage not only in Georgia, but throughout the world, emphasizes that Saakashvili fell short of Washington’s expectations and compromised the idea of “color revolutions”. And the U.S. Department of State has unequivocally said that the situation with the election in Georgia will depend on further American support to this country.
Saakashvili’s national (or rather, nationalistic) policy arouses concern in the West too. It is largely responsible for the fact that Abkhazia and South Ossetia have already seceded from Georgia. Adzharia too was close to it but was kept thanks to Abashidze’s urgent expulsion. Armenians and Azerbaijanis who live in some parts of Georgia are subject to infringement as well. They are dissatisfied that the formally existing self-government in these areas is actually missing; the living standards are very low, and social problems are not being solved. And recently, there started an anti-Armenian hysteria in Georgia the authorities do not react to.
To strengthen his shaky regime, Saakashvili appears to want to use an old, long-known technique - to unite the nation around him, creating of Georgia an image of a besieged fortress that has to fight with external and internal enemies. The external enemy is, of course, Russia that prevent from dealing shortly with unruly Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And the internal enemies are ethnic minorities and political opponents who play, according to the president, the role of a “fifth column” and act in concert with the enemy.
But it appears that this policy of Saakashvili, attempts to gather under his banner all the “patriots”, is doomed to failure. He compromised himself too much, as well as his regime of adventurous policy that has led Georgia to a difficult economic and financial situation, to an actual political isolation. This is admitted even by western backers of Georgia who are increasingly thinking about replacing the Georgian leader who has not lived up to their expectations. Realizing this, Saakashvili scares his Western backers that a pro-Russian politician may succeed him, and then Washington will lose Georgia as its only foothold in such an important region as Transcaucasia. And on the eve of a possible U.S. aggression against Iran, this would be, of course, a big blow for Washington.
Mikhail Saakashvili is keeping his head above water this way, so far. At the same time he is “tightening the screws” increasing persecution of the opposition, clamping down on attempts to express dissatisfaction towards him...