Georgia : Will the Aspergillum wield power soon ?
As Georgia leans towards a more liberal economy, will the country face a decline in religious and conservative values? This is what it is feared in view of statements of Bidzina Ivanishvili, Franco-Georgian oligarch, and one of President Saakashvili’ main opponents in the upcoming Georgian elections. The businessman is particularly critical when it comes to the country's minorities.
Who knew that a law granting more rights to religious minorities could be controversial? However, this is the case in Georgia. "Under this law, we can have a Parliament whose members are not citizens of Georgia, will not speak the Georgian language and especially will not ethnically Georgian" Bidzina Ivanishvili stated on Maestro TV on May 25. These words sound like Jean-Marie Le Pen or Jörg Haider, but had yet to be made by someone claiming to be a Democrat.
This is not Ivanishvili’s first swing at the minorities of Georgia. At the launch of his new political movement called “Georgian Dream" in December 2011, he has indeed said that with this law, the government sought to discredit the Georgian Orthodox Church. In what way would protecting minority religions hurt the majority religion? Nobody can be sure, yet this is currently the line defended by the Franco-Georgian oligarch.
Muslims seem to be another main point of offence for Ivanishvili. "It is unacceptable that a mosque be built upon the decision of Mikhail Saakashvili," he stated repeatedly, especially in the national newspaper Asaval Dasavali, to oppose the construction of mosques in Ajaria.
The coalition of Ivanishvili, "Georgian Dream", brings together many people who are close to the Georgian Orthodox Church, and who opposed the recognition of the rights of religious minorities. Thus, Murman Dumbadze, president of the movement "Serve Georgia", a movement member of Ivanishvili’s, accused Giorgi Masalkin, a Georgian politician supporting the construction of mosques, of not understanding the love of country because he was not "genetically Georgian."
Mamuka Areshidze, working on regional issues within the coalition of "Georgia Dream", has long criticized the new law, saying that "it can create many problems for the State and divided society." In addition, he has continuously pointed his finger at the accommodations made for the Armenian Catholics. Another coalition member, Gubaz Sanikidze, takes a more blunt approach: "It is unacceptable for the Georgian and Armenian churches have the same status. Armenians have more money, they will eventually eat us!" he exclaimed, reiterating the most extreme outings of xenophobic right-wing leaders.
Members of the "Georgian Dream" are particularly virulent against Mikhail Saakashvili and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, accusing them of being atheists and ill Georgians. "All they know is the language of Shakespeare and how to use computers. They know neither courage nor religion. They are not really Georgian." denounces Zviad Dzidziguri, another coalition member.
Can these conservative projections, bordering on the limits of explicit racism, convince voters? Yes, it is scarily possible, given the successes of the far-right parties in many European countries. The economic health, however, could prevent Tbilisi from housing such populist leaders.
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