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Interview with Grigol Gegelia

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, May 17
The Messenger continues covering the developments in the by-elections of the Parliament of Georgia, which be held on May 19. We interviewed one of the candidates for the mandate of Mtatsminda district representative in Georgian Parliament. Grigol Gegelia is an independent candidate representing the political left.

You are a young historian and politician actively involved in the academic field. What made you decide to get involved in politics?

I am a researcher of political theories. I was studying in England for 7 years and later I wrote my doctoral thesis about political theory in EU research institute in Italy. Observing politics has always been a big part of my life, and I have known that I would become a politician since a very early age. After a hard fight for my debut, what I have to say is that circular governance of Georgian Dream and National Movement has to come to an end, time for renovation has come.

Thereís an ideological crisis in Georgian politics, and the political class is separated from people. We want to unite educated, progressive, European people to create new political power. I didnít choose to stand by influential political parties. I am proud that I didnít sell my principles. Thereís massive inequality in this battle- the clans and networks of coordinators and agitators, as well as a huge amount of money, are present. We trust in democracy, and we want equal and free future.

Georgian political class is blind in terms of geopolitical threats. We must have a progressive pro-European social movement based on the ideas of equality and freedom that will focus on the well-being and freedom of people and reintegrating in western society that we have been a part of historically.

'Power to People'- What is the meaning behind your slogan and how do you picture doing this through the post of Mtatsminda district lawmaker?

Itís a classic democratic Latin principle that signifies self-governance and direct democracy. To restore peopleís trust in institutes, political processes, and politicians in general, people should own politics. Power to people stands for our desire to be a democratic country that has never been a priority for Georgian Dream or National Movement. We want to achieve accountability, transparency, and direct democracy in specific fields like Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. We can combine technocratic knowledge and peopleís sovereignty that will serve for Georgiaís healthy European future.

Electors often expect politicians to be involved in their everyday lives, and these expectations are often not met. Tell me about you vision of new parliamentarianism.

In our view, MP should hold meetings in his/her district to let people know what s/he and Parliament is working on, who are the main stakeholders and what are the models for development. This way, both, the political class and society members become educated. Symbiosis and synthesis of knowledge, practice, and experience will create a true democracy. I picture MP as a member of the district, who is working for its interests. Britain, where I have spent many years, is an excellent example of how MPs should work Ė Member of the Parliament works in his/her district for at least four days a week, while also being involved in international politics.

The current situation in Georgiaís parliament is a betrayal of the idea of parliamentarianism and people, thatís why itís no surprise that only 29% for the population know who the MPs are.

What were the issues that you learned about during your campaign?

Firstly, I have to say that the door to door campaign process has enriched me as a person in many ways - I am a reformed man now.

Our campaign is the first one in Georgia to use study-based policy Ė the needs and research-based paradigm that was initiated in Britain in the late 1990s. The problem of current Georgian politics is that itís not based on researches of NGOs and International Organizations Ė politicians donít use researches in governance, their policy is not focused on certain problems and is full of populism. Based on sociological researches that we conducted we found out that the issues that people worry about include ecological and labor issues and many others. From talking with people, I also learned that thereís hopelessness spread among people. Now I am even more determined for a change.

Among national problems, you listed issues such as energy security and renewable energy and labor policy. What are your suggestions?

In terms of energy security, our position is for Georgia to be Energy-independent country, which is a very important geopolitically as well. Our dependency on our enemy in the face of Russia is what needs to be changed. I have fought against Kremlinís influences as a public educator and lecturer. Now as a politician I have to go beyond expressing positions.

We have a concrete plan of energy effectiveness- when we canít generate enough we have to save more. With our plan, we can reduce our energy spending by 30 %. We should also issue regulations for developers in terms of heating expenses. Besides that, we plan to introduce tax and other forms of incentives to attract investors for using renewable energy.

In Georgia, we donít even have capitalism Ė the situation is more inclined towards feudalism. Thatís why we are working on the idea of step by step introducing minimum wages and reimbursing over-time labor. Must be noted that the EU has been calling on Georgia to present an adequate labor codex for a long time.

Besides that, unlike other candidates, we focus on ecological issues as well.

Concerning the situation, with judges, we think, that thereís got to be a public trust. If thereís no trust towards the government, political institutions, and court, no development can be reached.

Your plans include reopening the tunnel that connects Sololaki and Botanical Garden. Today you are holding an event that demands opening municipality theatre in the Rustaveli Cinema building. What are your plans concerning solving problems including the case of losing 2019 elections?

These are the municipality issues and MP is the representative of his/her district and must be lobbying issues of that district. MP can also use his/her right to go to Sakrebulo and have them under pressing. I want to serve my district and my peopleís interests, not the interests of the party - thatís what ďpower to peopleĒ means.

There should be easy access to every public space. About the tunnel, I have been informed, that there are no national security issues connected with its opening. Therefore, there can be the interests of specific personas, and we have to look deeper into this.

The issues that I defend politically have not been just created. People who were lobbying these issues are by my side now Ė there are more supporters in the regions, and together we will continue our fight together. Even if I donít win elections, I will continue working on these problems through Shadow MP format.

There are only two days left before elections. What are your expectations?

No matter who wins, I will continue my fight. I still have 80 hours left and every hour matters. We have shown people that we exist. Many of us are determined, and we will not let pseudo-politics continue. This is the fight for the survival of people, who were betrayed by politicians. We created a combination of red and green, which stand for laborism and ecology. I hope that this movement will grow into a party that will exist for many years, making important changes.