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Patarkatsishvili leaves behind a nervous nation

Thursday, February 14
Few in Georgia will believe that controversial billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, regardless of what an autopsy finds.

This is bad news for those who like peace and quiet. Segments of the opposition, which is planning a protest on Friday, will be shocked into adopting radical rhetoric. Some opposition leaders, already paranoid and not in the habit of watching their words, will be genuinely frightened by the possibility that a political enemy of the state was assassinated.

At the Friday rally, opposition politicians will explicitly allege murder, lending a severe edge to their campaign slogan of “I’m not afraid.” The opposition politicians who see negotiations as a dead-end, and fear being boxed into a corner in their duel with the government, will have an incentive and a slightly greater opportunity to leverage their public demonstrations into something more powerful than a routine picket line.

But that is not to say that the country will march in grief and anger over Patarkatsishvili’s death. He was not beloved. His oligarch status and murky past, along with the devastating secret tapes of him detailing a violent coup plot, left him controversial, unknowable, distrusted.

If English investigators find a smoking gun in Surrey, temperatures will rise in Tbilisi. But without something to push this stunning incident forward, it will quickly be written into the books as another uncertain passage in Georgian history. Yet Patarkatsishvili leaves behind a nervous nation, and a political deadlock—partly of his making—only a few poor decisions away from being a terrible entry in the history books.