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The government’s anti-crisis plan and Saakashvili’s candidacy in Ukraine: the main issues of controversy

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, May 6
Consensus between the government and the opposition regarding the coronavirus has long been broken. The opposition has been criticising the government’s additional anti-crisis program. The sudden nomination of Saakashvili for the post of Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine also caused a stir.

The coronavirus epidemic continues in Georgia, and according to doctors and government officials, the peak of the epidemic will come in the first half of May. The number of infected is within the range which the Georgian healthcare system can deal with, and even in the case of a certain increase in the number of infected people, there is a reserve (to an extent).

On April 24th, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia presented the government's anti-crisis plan to the State Chancellery. The opposition demanded that the plan be presented at a parliamentary session on April 22nd, and since the government did not do so, it did not support the continuation of the state of emergency in the country. However, this was done by the supporters of the government and the state of emergency was extended for one month - until May 22nd.

The Prime Minister began presenting the anti-crisis plan with describing the difficult situation the economy is in: this year, the country's economy will shrink by 4% instead of growth, the budget will lose ?GEL 1.8 billion in revenue, and the government will reduce current expenditures by ?GEL 300 million. However, the Prime Minister did not present a new version of the budget and noted that the government still has time by law. This has been criticised by the opposition as, according to them, the anti-crisis program would be real if it were based on the already introduced budget changes.

The anti-crisis plan provides for a variety of social assistance for citizens for 6 months and a package of certain benefits for businesses. ?GEL 3.9 billion will be mobilised from the budget for the anti-crisis plan and 350 thousand Georgian citizens will benefit from the aid package. According to Gakharia, “this is what the Georgian government can offer to every citizen today.” According to the Speaker of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze, ?GEL 35 billion will be spent for the care of citizens and ?GEL 2 billion 110 million for the support of the economy and business. In total, “the state will spend ?GEL 3.5 billion to help people.”

Opposition groups harshly criticised the program. According to Giga Bokeria, this is ‘delayed, superficial and harmful instincts, full of inadequate criteria.’ According to Nino Burjanadze, ‘the government is forced to quench the hunger of a large part of the population,’ because the assistance provided by the government is miserable and does not include several categories of people in need. Davit Bakradze, the leader of European Georgia, noted that their anti-crisis plan envisages ?GEL 6 billion in aid and is intended for 8 months.

The government considers the opposition's statements to be demagogic and populist. Irakli Kobakhidze also reminds the National Movement once again of their rule and notes that the social assistance system in Georgia was regulated thanks to the rule of the Georgian Dream.

On April 23th, more than 25 opposition parties wrote an open letter to their country's partners and supporters, stressing the government's failure to comply with the March 8th election agreement, namely the release of political prisoners, and urging them to reconsider their agreement. The government has already received a traditional response to this. The March 8th agreement provides not for the release of anyone, but for the non-interference of politics in the court case. As for the electoral reform, it will be carried out on time and there is no danger of holding elections in October.

The news of the possible appointment of the third President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili as the Deputy Prime Minister in Ukraine caused a great stir last week. Information about this appeared on April 22nd and caused a stir on the part of the government circles of Georgia and Russia. As it turned out, Saakashvili was collecting only 140-170 votes instead of the required 248 votes in the Ukrainian Rada, and on April 28th, his candidacy was stopped.

But before that, the first persons of the Georgian government - the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the President - said that it was unacceptable for them to appoint a person convicted in Georgia to Ukraine, thus threatening Ukraine's strategic partnership with Georgia. In response, opposition members said that such statements were an interference in Ukraine's internal affairs, and that the Georgian government, in the interests of the party, was endangering the country's strategic partnership with Ukraine. With the removal of Saakashvili's candidacy, the problem disappeared, but left an unpleasant feeling and question marks.

Meanwhile, the opposition is tired of the government’s restrictions amid the epidemic, especially since some of them consider it completely absurd. Such a request was made on April 28th by European Georgia. Earlier, on April 26th, Labor demanded the right to hold peaceful rallies and lift restrictions. As time goes by, such a mood will increase in the opposition, especially with 6 months left before the parliamentary elections…
(Translated by Mariam Mchedlidze)