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Political strategies change as businessmen stand for office

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, April 14

The ruling party has named a slew of prominent businessmen to stand in the May 21 parliamentary elections.

Opposition members publicly scoff at the recruitment efforts, saying they’ll put experienced politicos up against these ‘moneybags,’ as dusty-pocketed Labor leader Shalva Natelashvili puts it.

But observers point out the obvious resource advantage that wealthy, self-funding candidates have in rural districts, where the votes will go to whomever can make the most obvious improvements to public life.

The notion of successful businessmen migrating into politics is unfamiliar in Georgia, where public officials have long been career functionaries or political operatives. Voters and analysts now wonder, some more cynically than others, what on earth the already-affluent have to gain from entering a profession often used as a platform to prosperity.

Opposition-minded pundits accuse the government of forcing businessmen to compete and cough up their own money for a parliamentary majority. The ruling party points out that business acumen and general competence is something parliament could use more of.

More acutely, recruiting wealthy businessmen is financially sensible for any political party, and in the Georgian psyche meshes with the ruling party’s campaign message of anti-poverty programs. Natelashvili and his cohorts, experienced as they may be with political ruckus-making, face formidable opponents in the moneybags.