News in brief
Monday, December 17
Saakashvili to participate in election debates
Ruling party leader and presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili will participate in televised election debates with other presidential contenders, his campaign spokesman Davit Bakradze told journalists on December 15.
Bakradze, who is also State Minister of Conflict Resolution Issues, said that Saakashvili will not debate with each opposition candidate individually.
“All the other candidates talk only of holding debates with the former president and in doing so they are suggesting that he is the main contender for the presidency. They are all equal competitors and that’s why I call on them to hold debates between themselves first before Saakashvili participates too,” Bakradze stated. (Prime News)
NGO speaks out on ‘violations’ of Chechen refugees’ rights
The NGO Human Rights Center claims that the government and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are violating the rights of Chechen refugees residing in Georgia, in a recently published report for 2006–7.
The NGO’s main claims are that government legislation does not allow refugees to move to a different country, and that they are not provided with adequate living conditions in Georgia. (Prime News)
Appeal launched against CEC decision on Georgian soldiers abroad
An appeal against the Central Election Commission (CEC) decision to deny the right to vote to Georgian soldiers serving in Kosovo and Iraq was submitted to court by the ruling party on December 14.
All six of the opposition-appointed CEC members voted against a proposal to allow 2000 active Georgian servicemen to vote in the upcoming snap presidential election on January 5, citing a constitutional provision that stipulates elections cannot be held in war zones.
Levan Bezhashvili, chair of the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, said denying Georgian soldiers the vote was illegal; the campaign office of ruling party leader Mikheil Saakashvili said the decision was politically motivated.
According to CEC chair Levan Tarkhnishvili, any action taken by the CEC on the issue will depend on the court’s decision. (Prime News)
Levan Berdzenishvili slammed for ‘racist’ remarks
Terry Davis, Council of Europe Secretary General, criticized Levan Berdzenishvili, a Republican leader and member of the United National Council coalition of opposition parties, for recent remarks about Matyas Eorsi which were construed by some as racist.
Berdzenishvili described Eorsi, a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as a “Hungarian Jew” in a televised interview recently.
“The gentleman in question has only damaged his own reputation and his party’s reputation. But this does not mean that such outbursts should be taken lightly. Politicians must be accountable for what they say and for the example they set to other people,” Davis was quoted as saying.
Davis added “such statements have nothing to do with Georgia as I know it. The great majority of Georgians are tolerant people, and they do not need to be urged to reject such intolerant and racist statements.”
In explaining himself to online news source Civil.Ge, Berdzenishvili denied any anti-Semitism on his part.
“When I was speaking about Matyas Eorsi the anchor intervened to say ‘he is Hungarian’ and I just specified that he was a Hungarian Jew. I just gave his origin. By the way, I think that the only positive thing about him is the fact that he is Jewish,” Berdzenishvili told Civil.Ge. (Prime News)
Footballer plans to open bank in Georgia
World-famous Georgian footballer Kakha Kaladze, who currently plays for Italian team AC Milan, has announced plans to open his own bank in Georgia.
Kaladze, 29, has already submitted an application for a banking license which will be considered by the National Bank over the next month. Earlier this year Kaladze spoke of his ambition to become president of Georgia when he retires from football. (Regnum)