Audio Recording Allegedly Reveals Saakashvili’s Plan to Overturn Election Results

TBILISI - A new audio recording of an alleged conversation between Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili and members of his United National Movement (UNM) opposition party surfaced on the Internet Tuesday.

Though the tape’s authenticity has not been confirmed, the recordings appear to reveal a discussion involving Saakashvili – who currently serves as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region – and UNM lawmakers Akaki Bobokhidze, Irma Nadirashvili, Nugzar Tsiklauri, Petre Tsiskarishvili, Akaki Minashvili and Gigi Tsereteli, where they discuss plans to overturn the results of the upcoming October 8 parliamentary election in the event their bitter political rivals, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, come in ahead at the polls.

In the recording, the group discuss strategies for organizing and staging large demonstrations throughout the country.

The voice identified as that of Saakashvili’s can be heard saying he is opposed to the idea of uniting with other opposition parties to form an anti-GD political coalition.

The other participants can be heard agreeing with his plans, saying they should, instead, turn their focus to organizing civil unrest rallies.

“I think our main focus is to create a condition where we can hold the elections in a revolutionary environment…meaning stirring up the public’s agitation and organizing civil disobedience protests,” a voice identified as belonging to UNM MP Tsereteli says.

A voice said to be UNM parliamentarian Bobokhidze can be heard discussing the organization and financing of a large public protest.

“We should calculate our expenses carefully…10 GEL per person a day? How much will it cost to finance a 200 man rally for 2-3 months?,” Bobokhidze says.

The Counterintelligence Department of the State Security Service (SSS) has launched an investigation into the recording under Article 215 of Georgia’ Criminal Code about coup plots.

The Security Services has summoned the alleged participants in for questioning, and an analysis of the tape’s authenticity is currently taking place.

All of the individuals called by the Security Services deny having any links to the recording.

Saakashvili commented on the issue in a short post on his Facebook page, where accuses the eccentric billionaire founder of the Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, of “having fabricated a story and doctored the recording to win the elections”.

Bobokhidze claims he has not spoken to Saakashvili since 2015, and the UNM has no plans to foment a revolution. He believes the Ivanishvili is using the recording to help score political points ahead of the October elections.

“I am sure that no one will be able to falsify the election results. Everyone will have to obey the will of the people, even Ivanishvili,” said Bobokhidze.

Kakha Kaladze, the Georgian Dream’s general secretary, claims the party will not allow anyone to organize a coup and overthrow the government.

“We are acting within the law. Our main task is to conduct the elections under normal, peaceful conditions and in a free and open environment,” Kaladze said.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili called on law enforcement agencies to carry out a transparent investigation and to cooperate with the media and the general public to avoid escalating the situation.

Margvelashvili’s spokeswoman Eka Mishveladze said at a briefing Tuesday the government has demanded that Saakashvili not interfere with the election process. 

“The President believes that he (Saakashvili) must refrain from making inflammatory comments ahead of an important democratic event like the upcoming parliamentary elections,” Mishveladze stated.

The UNM was Georgia’s ruling party in 2003-2012, but was defeated by the current Georgian Dream is the 2012 parliamentary elections after widespread allegations of abuse of power dogged the UNM following the release of video footage showing police rape and torture prisoners in a Tbilisi jail.

By Thea Morrison

Edited by Nicholas Waller

27 September 2016 17:17