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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MAY 1 - 3, 2018

On Mayor Kaladze So Far, So Good OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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ike most people, I’m not particularly keen on admitting I was wrong; opinionated I might be, but my views are comfortably grounded in common sense and evidence, without ideology entering into it much. For example, I despise Jeremy Corbyn and everything about him because of what he says and does, but that does not in fact make me a supporter of Theresa May, who will deservedly go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers Britain has ever endured. I haven’t had much good to say about Kakha Kaladze in recent years. The government’s move to stick him in the post of Minister of Energy seemed a cheap political stunt designed to appeal to the uneducated, who would (and did, I heard them) say ‘Ah, he is a good man. He made a lot of money,’ ignoring the fact that being a professional footballer might not have prepared him best for dealing with managing the use of fossil fuels, establishing clean energy alternatives, and navigating the complexities of supply and demand in the context of the region’s complicated geopolitics. I’m not saying that being a professional footballer is easy, but I hope you’ll agree that it is something of a simpler job. Furthermore, Kaladze had shares in energy businesses, which seemed to me to add up to a nice conflict of interest. Nor was I encouraged when Kaladze announced that he was going to re-enter negotiations with Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant, to supply Georgia with gas to make up its deficit in winter supplies. This was alarming, not least because it added fuel to the fire of rumors claiming that the Georgian Dream government is still controlled by ex-PM billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose wealth

stemmed from Russian investments. The protests against Georgia being put back under any form of reliance on Russia were vindicated by some bemusement from Azerbaijan, which supplies all of Georgia’s energy needs, and which said really, Kakha, we could give you a little more gas, all you had to do was ask… So I was not filled with optimism when the Georgian Dream party declared that the energy wonder boy was going to be the mayor of this city; again, it looked like the government was just hoping to take advantage of his footballer fame and use it against opponents who, while little-known, might raise some awkward questions about city planning, public spending, and policy. Still, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

He put lights in dark underpasses where women have suffered sexual harassment; he has canceled construction projects that would ruin the city’s aesthetics; he supported fellow-footballer Guram Kashia, who plays for a team in the Netherlands, for wearing an LGBT flag on his shirt sleeve; and in recent weeks, he organized a friendly football game between the black victims of a physical attack and the men who attacked them. That’s not to say that everything is peachy. As nice a gesture as it was to use sport to reconcile the victims of racial violence and the men who attacked them, whoever hit them (and they do land punches and kicks as can clearly be seen on the video) should still be arrested

and prosecuted. And while fewer ugly projects is a good thing, the fight to save the hippodrome is still raging, so the Mayor still has work to do. But so far, his performance has left me feeling far more optimistic than I was at the time of his election. Now, in admitting I was wrong to be initially pessimistic I’m not taking anything back from my comments during his tenure as Minister of Energy. My views haven’t changed much, but they have been amended: Perhaps (and I stress the ‘perhaps’) that on seeing Georgia suffered from a gas deficit, his reaching out to Gazprom was the only course of action he thought he could take; maybe he thought Azerbaijan was already giving all the supplies it possibly could, and

that a new gas deal with Russia might also aid the Geneva International Discussions and bring Moscow and Tbilisi back to diplomacy. It have been naïve and deeply unwise, but from his behavior over Guram Kashia and the attack on the black students, I don’t think it’s particularly unlikely; in fact, that might actually be more possible than Kaladze being part of some behind-the-scenes attempt to bring Georgia back under Russian control. So it may be fair to say that Kaladze has found his level. He did not excel at managing vast energy resources or navigating murky political waters, but solving racial dispute, promoting LGBT equality and making (and keeping) this city green may be well within his talents.

No “Free Cheese” for Women BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE

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n March 23, Georgian MPs voted down the socalled Gender Quotas Bill. The bill obtained 66 votes from Georgian Dream while 14 representatives of the party voted against it. The initiative failed to gather the necessary 76 votes to pass the legislative threshold. MPs from the European Georgia and the Alliance of Patriots did not attend the voting. Two of the six United National Movement legislators (four were absent) voted in favor of the bill. The bill is a new grand project decisively promoted by various wellrespected Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), supposedly aimed at pushing Georgian society to more gender equality. There were probably no doubts that, backed by Georgia’s strategic partners, these CSOs would have persuaded the government to accept a gender quotation mechanism; but, contradictory to expectations, the bill did not gain the respective support. This failure raises some important questions about Georgian society and

the non-governmental sector and the nature of their affairs.

THE GENDER QUOTA BILL

In June 2017, a group of 118 Tbilisi-based and regional CSOs, in collaboration with international women’s rights organizations, introduced a new bill –

political parties and self-governments to balance the number of their male and female representatives. In case of absence of gender parity, political parties would be denied registration for elections. If approved, it would have resulted in at least 38 female lawmakers in the next parliament and at least 75 (half of the legislative body)

This legislative initiative was warmly received by senior lawmakers from three parliamentary parties of Georgia, including the ruling Georgian DreamDemocratic Georgia, the European Georgia part and the United National Movement. Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, also supported it, arguing that it would promote gender equality and push forward the democratization process. Finally, it got a green light from the Ambassadorial Working Group, which unites the diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia.

POST-VOTING OUTCRY

the Gender Quota Mechanism. According to the initiative, women are highly underrepresented in the country’s political life. The statement is based on the 2016 Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum that ranks Georgia 114th out of 144 in terms of women’s participation in politics. The bill proposed to oblige

female lawmakers from 2024. In theory, the mechanism is perceived as a ‘temporary’ means to empower women’s participation in politics and an increase in their role in the decisionmaking process in general.

Arguably, it is the first case in the last decade when, despite strong support from senior officials and the country’s strategic partners, local CSOs failed to pass the project. While the government immediately pointed out a lack of political consensus on the matter among its members and promised to continue pushing forward the bill, members of CSOs were highly frustrated and angered. As previously mentioned, there were no doubts that the bill would be accepted. They offer two main narratives for this fact. Continued on page 15

Issue #1044 Business  

May 1 - 3, 2018

Issue #1044 Business  

May 1 - 3, 2018

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