A Political Storm

Life is full of surprises, and especially in Georgia. However, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that what happened last week was truly unexpected even for the most experienced Georgians. First, the government arrested two rappers from the Birja Mafia band, because of one of their latest rap songs; later it accused them of purchase, storage and use of large amounts of illegal drugs and sentenced them to pretrial detention. Only 48 hours after the sentence, the court allowed both of them home on bail. The series of surprising decisions was somehow connected not with the rappers from Birja Mafia though, but with the son of the non-formal leader of the country, Bera Ivanishvili.

Bera’s short Facebook status “I am with you boys” turned out to be a completely legit and sufficient argument for the Prosecutor’s Office, Court and the parliamentary majority to change their position – proclaim them innocent and the involved policemen as guilty. “If anyone is found guilty of felony, all will be punished adequately,” threatened Vice Premier Kaladze. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili also tried to protect the rights of the rappers and called on Georgian Dream’s MPs to liberalize the law on drugs.

Then came a street protest and suddenly everything turned on its head, with father and son Ivanishvili, and the Prime Minister and Vice Premier taking a stand against the police. The so-called Rappers Case also strangely coincided with staff changes in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, which has raised suspicion that maybe the recent events are a prelude to what will very likely be followed by changes in the government. Some used to joke that the government should be afraid of rappers most of all, and this was way before the Birja Mafia rappers got arrested.

And so, it seems that the Rappers Case could become a basis for great political cataclysms. Political analyst Gia Khukhashvili believes that we have entered a stage of “crisis management” and that in this situation, the crisis won’t be solved naturally, but the other way around: the existing crisis or, if you wish “sabotage,” will be overshadowed by another, quite likely an even larger one. He also added, “If this crisis is not extinguished and systematic events are not conducted against it, tomorrow or the day after, the situation will become even more difficult.”

Political expert Soso Tsintsadze declared that the most important thing of all is the apparent deficit of trust and that the people no longer believe in the investigation conclusions. For him, the most unacceptable thing is that, although everyone makes mistakes, the government should at least create an illusion of solving them and at the very least make adequate statements. “Instead, the government has appointed the least popular minister, Alexandre Jejelava, as its speaker, who further adds fuel to the fire with every statement he makes,” said Tsintsadze.

Overall, the month of June is one that seems to be preordained for Georgian Dream. Like in June 2015, the thunderstorm has yet to pass and as thousands protested the policy of police set-ups, the black clouds started to gather over Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia... This time, the rain did not develop into a natural disaster, but definitely did turn into a political storm.

The fact that people are nervous means that street protests gain more significance with the approaching local elections. Freeing the rappers was a humane act and we should thank everyone, including Bera, for it. But the thing is that the latter hasn’t solved the core problem. On the contrary, he exhibited it fully and we now clearly realize that we are facing a serious drama here. As for Birja Mafia, those who have a better idea of what’s happening on the Georgian rap scene might know their music is not ever so tasteful and if not for this political scandal many would never have even heard about the band, nor would they have watched that “fatal” video clip that caused the whole drama.

Zaza Jgarkava

15 June 2017 19:45