Georgia: Is Corruption Back?
In very recent years, Georgia has been seen as an incredibly effective international template for anti-corruption legislation. With the next presidential elections taking place in 2013, the political party “Georgian Dream” has instigated a sort of flashback to the days of Soviet oppression in the country.
When Mikhail Saakashvili rose to power in 2004, he launched an unprecedented fight against corruption in Georgia. One of the most corrupt organs of the state apparatus, the traffic police, was drastically altered in July of 2004. The government instituted reforms that included the training of young officers with high salaries, the establishment of inspectors of fonts, and the centralized electronic payment of fines.
These efforts were quickly greeted with unanimous praise throughout the international community: the International Republican Institute showed in a study published in 2010 that positive perception of the work of the traffic police now reached to 84%, compared to 10% in 2003. In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2010” rankings, Georgia rose 27 spots since their 2007 standing, now ranking in 11th position worldwide.
Despite these efforts, all may be lost with the emergence of a new political party called the "Georgian Dream", built to support the Franco-Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Just a few weeks ago, Ivanishvili’s political party was caught in the crossfire of questionable political ethics when activists were shown on national TV distributing flyers to the citizens of Kutaisi. These flyers offered gifts of washing machines, as well as other household appliances, in addition to cash vouchers of up to 1000 Lari. This was clearly a way for Ivanishvili to buy the votes of Georgian citizens.
Just a few weeks after this flyer incident, the “Georgian Dream” is once again on the hot seat when it comes to illegal vote buying. Now, the issue at hand is the establishment of the Komagi Foundation. This organization broke onto the political scene in May, stating that its purpose was to protect "victims of political repression." The Komagi Foundation offers free legal representation, as well as free financial support of up to 5000 Lari per case, per month for these victims, which, due to its very broad definition of “victim”, can describe almost any citizen of Georgia.
The problem with this foundation is that the organization receives a vast amount of its funds from wealthy Georgian expatriates who support Bidzina Ivanishvili. One of these masked donators is Vano Chkhartishvili, who is alleged to have had made numerous payments to these “victims” through offshore bank accounts. This is just one reason as to why many international NGOs are in a state of alarm. In separate statements, Transparency International, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and the Coalition to Free Choice have all stated their concern when it comes to this charity, and its influence over voters in respect to having a heavy influence on pro-Ivanishvili projections.
Will the Georgian people be able to be bought with money and gifts? The world hopes not. Yet, in this day and age, when money prevails, many will succumb to the communist bribes of Ivanishvili. Hopefully many more will realize what is happening to their precious country, and will reinstate the power of the current president Saakashvili, who has brought so much prosperity to the region.