On May 29, former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia inaugurated a new political party “For Georgia.” Gakharia was elected as the chairman of the party at the inaugural congress. The inauguration of the new political party triggered mixed reactions on social media. Part of Facebook pages supporting the government and discrediting the opposition, as well as Facebook pages supporting the opposition tried to mock at Gakharia’s party with humorous posts. Others published a sponsored post, recalling Gakharia’s earlier statement, when then Prime Minister threatened with ending the opposition United National Movement party. The new party was also criticized by ultranationalist movements, who suggested that “For Georgia” was a “liberast version” of the ruling Georgian Dream party, while pro-government experts claimed that Giorgi Gakharia and opposition parties or pro-opposition TV channels had common interests – to seize Georgian Dream’s votes, thus weakening the ruling party.
11 new Facebook pages supporting Gakharia were identified with five pages created in March and April 2021 and six – in May 2021.
Myth Detector has identified a total of 10 Facebook pages that spread almost identical messages about Giorgi Gakharia and his new party. Three pages (არქივი • Archive, რეალობა, ტერენტი გლდანელი) spread pro-government materials, four pages (ლურჯი ვირი, როდის მიდის? როდის მოდის?, Annual events ყოველწლიური მოვლენები, ქოცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო) – pro-opposition content, one page (Qvakutxedi ქვაკუთხედი) – antiliberal and one (Laughtivism – პოლიტიკური კარიკატურები) – entertaining materials.
It is noteworthy that one of the Facebook pages მოღალატე გახარია (Treacherous Gakharia) was created on May 26, two days before the inauguration of Gakharia’s party.
Facebook groups supporting Gakharia
A number of pages and groups emerged on Facebook following Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation on February 18. Nine Facebook groups were created in a period between February 18 and February 28 in support of the former Prime Minister. One of these groups “გახარია დაბრუნდი” (Gakharia Return) changed its name on April 26 to აპარტამენტების ყიდვა/გაყიდვა (Apartments for Sale/Purchase).
Six new groups were created in March and April 2021 in support of Giorgi Gakharia:
|გიორგი გახარია. ” საქართველოსთვის”
||March 24, 2021
|საქართველოსთვის??ხალხის გუნდი ✊??❤️
||April 6, 2021.
|გახარია & ახალი პარტია საქართველოსთვის||March 24, 2021
|მე ვირჩევ გახარიას – საქართველოსთვის||April 5, 2021
|გახარიას პარტიის მხარდამჭერები||
April 2, 2021
Two groups were identified that had changed their initial profiles. For example, the group “Gakharia Return” created in February 2021 changed its name on April 26 to აპარტამენტების ყიდვა/გაყიდვა (Apartments for Sale/Purchase).
Six more groups supporting Gakharia emerged on Facebook in May, shortly after the new party “For Georgia” was inaugurated.
|Group Name||Creation Date|
||May 28, 2021
|საქართველოსთვის გიორგი გახარია||May 29, 2021
|გახარია ჩემი არჩევანია!||May 22, 2021
||May 29, 2021
|გიორგი გახარია საქართველოსთვის||May 30, 2021
|გახარიას მხარდამჭერები ზუგდიდში
||May 29, 2021
Facebook pages against Gakharia
A Facebook page მოღალატე გახარია (Treacherous Gakharia) was created on May 26, 2021, several days before the inauguration of Gakharia’s party. As of June 1, the page has published four posts targeting Gakharia.
Two video collages published on the page compare the statements made by Gakharia during his party inauguration and when he served as the Prime Minister, highlighting his changed positions about the National Movement and nepotism.
In a video uploaded on May 30, the same page reminds us, along with providing Gakharia’s nepotism-related statements, that the former Prime Minister’s wife bought an apartment in France in 2020.
In its first post, the newly created page compares Gakharia’s new party logo to the logos of Georgian Post and TBC Bank.
An identical photo accompanied by a caption with the same content was uploaded by an anti-opposition Facebook page, ტერენტი გლდანელი (Terenti Gldaneli) 13 minutes later.
On May 29, არქივი • Archive, an anti-opposition page, spread Giorgi Gakharia’s video, where then Prime Minister dubs the National Movement as street opposition and threatens to end it. It is noteworthy that the post published on the page is sponsored:
ტერენტი გლდანელი (Terenti Gldaneli), an anti-opposition page, also uploaded a video collage showing Gakharia’s changed rhetoric towards opponents. The video collage unites the statements made by Gakharia at a meeting with journalists and earlier, when he served as the Prime Minister:
The photo uploaded by the same page also depicts Eliso Kiladze, editor of Kronika newspaper, among Gakharia’s teammates.
Anti-opposition Facebook page რეალობა (Reality) responded to Gakharia’s party inauguration with Mr. Bean’s video:
Facebook page ქოცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო (Official Agency Mocking at Georgian Dream) affiliated with the National Movement also compared Gakharia’s party logo to the logo of Georgian Post.
The National Movement-affiliated Facebook page ლურჯი ვირი (Blue Donkey) depicted the new party logo on Cosmos cigarette pack that was later shared by Facebook page Annual events ყოველწლიური მოვლენები.
Two Facebook pages როდის მიდის? როდის მოდის? and ლურჯი ვირი spread a photo, in which Gakharia, who is wearing a Joker costume, creates the logo of his new party, also involving the logos of Georgian Post and TBC Bank.
Facebook page “როდის მიდის? როდის მოდის?” spread Gakharia’s photo with the following caption:
Facebook page “როდის მიდის? როდის მოდის?” was created in February 2021 and it mainly spreads the posts discrediting the government.
Facebook page Laughtivism – პოლიტიკური კარიკატურები also compared Gakharia’s party logo to Georgian Post’s logo:
According to the website description, Laughtivism is the first-ever web platform of caricatures in Georgia, where social and political issues are subject to satirical criticism.
The post published by Khatuna Saginashvili, editor of Kvakutkhedi (Cornerstone) magazine, about Gakharia’s wife allegedly having purchased an apartment worth half a million Euro in France was shared by religious Facebook page Qvakutxedi ქვაკუთხედი.
Later the same day, an identical screenshot was published on the Facebook page of Irakli Jankarashvili, writer for pro-Russian online media outlet, tvalsazrisi.ge.
Pro-government experts have voiced identical messages about Gakharia’s new party. In their opinion, the new party, together with the National Movement and other parties, will try “to seize” Georgian Dream’s votes and prevent the ruling party from garnering 43% of votes in local elections that will ultimately decide the fate of the early parliamentary polls. Like Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of Georgian Dream, who accused TV Pirveli and Formula TV of promoting Gakharia and noted that it arouses doubts about him, pro-government experts also stressed the interest of government-critical media towards the former Prime Minister.
|Message||Comments by pro-government experts|
|Gakharia, together with the National Movement and other parties, will try to seize the ruling party’s votes so that the latter fails to garner 43% of votes in local elections||
Gia Abashidze: “What is the goal of Saakashvili’s sect and his puppet TV channels? Their goal is to further attack Georgian Dream through Gakharia so that the former Prime Minister takes away the votes of the ruling party, not the National Movement. Why? Saakashvili & Co, especially after their disgraceful entry in the Parliament, are trying to achieve early parliamentary elections – to avoid “closure” in the October local elections with 43% of votes.
Zurab Kadagidze: “Now, it is important for them that he maintains a niche, is seen on TV screens, ensures that his everyday activities become the basis for attacking Georgian Dream. It was admitted by Tsiskarishvili and Ugulava and it is clear that they view the former Prime Minister as their future ally who will seize Georgian Dream’s votes that will ultimately lead to early parliamentary elections. At this point, Gakharia’s key task is to harm Georgian Dream and hunt for its votes.”
Vladimer Bozhadze: The forecast is quite simple – the purpose of two-hour-long live broadcasts is to deprive Georgian Dream of its votes so that it fails to garner 43% that will lead to early parliamentary elections. Now, this is Gakharia’s and opposition’s dream!
Davit Kartvelishvili: “When the bankrupted National Movement compares the new party “For Georgia” to the Trojan Horse, in respect of the current government, does it mean mythologically that Giorgi Gakharia is sitting inside? When Gigi Ugulava and Petre Tsiskarishvili are sitting on this horse intending to achieve results during the autumn elections on its back rather than through revitalizing the dead rating of their own party, and trying to encourage the new party through embroiling Gakharia and Georgian Dream, to hunt for the ruling party’s votes and prevent it from garnering 43% of votes – neither the Trojan Horse, nor “Varlam donkey” will obstruct the ruling party from garnering less than 45% of votes in the autumn elections.
|Keeping Gakharia on the agenda is in the interests of opposition parties and their media outlets||
Gia Abashidze: “Giorgi Gakharia and his new party are facing a serious challenge – not to become excessively relevant on radical opposition TV channels, as if nothing important or serious is happening except of this party. The National Movement-affiliated TV channels skilled in swindling can easily do this – asking tough questions, outlining the positions of the National Movement sect in “a sauce” of questions and so on.”
Zurab Kadagidze: “It is important for the former and current members of the National Movement, as well as their party televisions that Gakharia does not lose relevance. It is another issue whether he will be asked tough questions or promoted. It is important for them that Gakharia maintains a niche, is seen on TV screens, ensures that his everyday activities become the basis for attacking Georgian Dream… Three party televisions are promoting it, trying to do their best so that Gakharia does not lose relevance and keeps floating to the surface.”
Vladimer Bozhadze: “By his ostentatious resignation on February 18, Gakharia significantly damaged Georgian Dream. He, probably, will not be able to cause more harm in the future. Now, the key task of the National Movement and other opposition parties, their media outlets is to ensure that Gakharia is kept on the agenda, no matter whether he will be asked tough or less tough questions. What is most important, he will no longer be “blackened” like it happened when he was member of Georgian Dream.”
Natia Mezvrishvili – a target of antiliberal and pro-Kremlin groups
Gakharia’s teammate, Natia Mezvrishvili also became a target of criticism. On May 29, Beka Vardosanidze, a supporter of Georgian businessman Levan Vasadze’s party, spoke about her during a live stream. He claimed that Mezvrishvili is an LGBT activist, who signed the Istanbul Convention:
Beka Vardosanidze, supporter of Levan Vasadze’s political party “Unity, Essence, Hope”: “For years, I had been insistently calling on Georgian Dream and its supporters to choose a correct path, showing them an example of how to act, whom to partner with and which ideology to choose. I was pushing him [Gakharia] towards Trump and he failed to go beyond Mike Pompeo and Natia Mezvrishvili. We will definitely talk about Mezvrishvili as well, we will talk about what the Istanbul Convention means that was proudly signed and then covertly ratified by her… and now this LGBT activist, Natia Mezvrishvili, a friend of Babutsa Pataraia, is proud of doing that.”
Natia Mezvrishvili’s personality was also discussed on Alt-Info. One of its hosts, Zurab Makharadze said that the values of this party are quite clear especially after seeing Natia Mezvrishvili among Gakharia’s teammates:
Zurab Makharadze, host: “What does this woman actually represent, in essence… Shortly, she is a friend of Baia Pataraia and she is one of Gakharia’s teammates. Thus, it is quite clear what platform Gakharia will choose, whether it will contain conservative elements, whether the party will confront the National Movement and let’s not argue about it… It will be a more liberast version of Georgian Dream.”
Giorgi Gigauri, a journalist of Georgian tabloid Asaval-Dasavali, also spoke about Natia Mezvrishvili, calling her “zonder-gender” and accusing her of jailing hundreds of men on charges of domestic violence.
Giorgi Gigauri, journalist: “Any normal person knows that Gakharia signed the November 11, 2019 document on selling the Rioni Gorge when serving as the Prime Minister! It is also known that among Gakharia’s teammates is his old associate and Baia Pataraia’s friend – zonder-gender Natia Mezvrishvili who served as Deputy Interior Minister, when Gakharia was the Interior Minister, and who jailed hundreds of men on charges of domestic violence through enacting zonder-gender laws.”