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Friday, April 17, 2009

Who is Giorgi Targamadze?

Everybody that hates Saakashvili is out in the streets, or at home or work sympathizing with the opposition. Or they are just waiting for the next presidential elections. But Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of the Christian Democrats and parliamentary minority is busy trying to convince the “radical” opposition to be a bit more realistic. Standing and sleeping in the streets demanding the president’s resignation is not good for the country, he says.

Targamadze came up with a seven-point proposal to beak down the deadlock and provoke real dialog. But because none of those points demands Saakashvili’s resignation, the opposition has rejected the proposal.

For a 35 year-old, Targamadze has played a lot of ball with an eclectic cast of characters. A graduate of journalism at Tbilisi State University, he became director of Adjara TV-Radio in Batumi when he was just 22 years-old. This was a pretty crazy time in Georgia. Tbilisi’s civil war and two separatist conflicts were still smoldering and everybody was wondering if the Autonomous Republic of Adjara would be next.

Adjara was essentially the person fiefdom of Aslan Abashidze, a Georgian blue-blood, who ran the Adjaran Black Sea region in ways that would have made Al Capone drool. In Adjara, the central government in Tbilisi existed in name only as Abashidze exclusively ran the show, controlling the tariffs on things like oil, drugs, guns and whatever else went through the port legitimately or not.

The young and ambitious Targamadze became Head of Abashidze’s Supreme Court Press Service in 1997 and two years later, MP of the Unified Georgia Party. When Saakashvili was elected in 2004, Abashidze no longer fit in the new picture. As Misha put the screws on Aslan, the feudal lord blew the bridge on the main highway to keep Tbilisi troops out, but his own private army began breaking rank. We woke up the next morning and Abashidze had split for Moscow.

Targamadze was suddenly out of a patron, but knew what side the bread was buttered on. He dropped politics and went back to hacking in Tbilisi for Imedi TV, owned by Georgia’s oligarch gazillionaire, Badri Patarkatsiashvili.

At first Badri and Misha used to show up together to cut ribbons, shovel dirt and shake hands in front of cameras. Then things started to go wrong. Badri’s TV station began competing with Rustavi-2 TV for bad press. Rustavi covered pro-government stuff and Imedi focused on counter views, which were growing. With no system of checks and balances in government, Saakashvili began exercising his Ataturk fantasy, only he had forgotten that this was the 21st century.

It all came to a head on November 7th when opposition leaders began protesting for reform. One thing lead to another and Misha sicked the cops on them and Imedi TV broadcast it all. Targamadze was in the anchor seat as riot cops came into the studio and demolished the station and closed it down.

A couple weeks later the government released a tape of what they said was Badri plotting a coup. That was strike 2 for Targamadze. He quit, put on a chokha (Georgian national costume) and announced his new political party, the Christian Democratic Movement (CDM).

Targamadze got wise. The first two benefactors were rich but expendable. He needed a benefactor with staying power. Targamadze asked His Holiness, Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to bless his party, which became the first political party to be blessed by His Holiness. Nobody in Georgia is going to diss the Pope and calling yourself a Christian party will get you lots of the female vote. It also helps to be handsome, which Targamadze is, in a Michal J. Fox sort of way.

In an interview in The Messenger, Targamadze explained that his party supports traditional and democratic institutions under threat from the present administration. Taking a cue from the late televangelist and conservative commentator Jerry Falwell, Targamadze claims his goal is to restore the moral face of society. When asked how he would go about building a middle class, he said “political actions would bring order to the country.”

As vague as that is, we now know he doesn’t mean action by standing on a platform in front of parliament and saying “dialog is the language of Satan,” like Zourabichvili.

The opposition call him Misha’s puppet, others call him a snake and opportunist, but the fact is, he is one of the only opposition leaders in Georgia that understands what politicking is all about.

“You know, I don’t agree at all with the Christian Democrats, but they participate in the democratic process,” says Giga Bokeria, Deputy Foreign Minister.

And that’s the bottom line. Opposition parties have every right to boycott parliament, but by doing so they are providing nothing for their constituents who want jobs, health care, roads and security. Targamadze may be a snake and opportunist, but then he’s become a politician and may end up smelling better than anybody else, when the smoke clears.

(image lifted from Reuters Pictures)


Anonymous said...

Nicely spoken!


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

The party is Christian Democratic Movement (CDM) not Christian Democratic Party (CDP). You are more credible if you get your facts straight.

Paul Rimple said...

Oh my God! You mean? No! I fucked up the name of the party? Shit! If you just kept your trap shut Anonymous, I could go on being incredible... Wait, I mean, wait.. I like incredible better.

Thank you so much for the credibility lesson, now I should quickly change my post before another wise-guy challenges my incredibility.