He made the statement last Sunday in the program on the Main Channel TV hosted by Nika Gvaramia and Eka Kvesitadze. During the TV show, Georgia’s third president criticized his former teammate, now leader of the opposition party European Georgia, Giga Bokeria, saying the latter is “anti-traditional, anti-Christian and anti-Georgian.”
“I am an Orthodox Christian by conviction, I wear the cross. Bokeria and other people did their best to distance us from our traditional Georgian Christian values,” he stressed.
The ex-president added that Bokeria has had a very cynical attitude towards the Georgian traditions and religious values during all these years, adding these values are very precious to him.
This was not the first statement made by Saakashvili where he appeals to religious or tradition topics. For example, in April of this year, he announced that he had undergone a genetic test in the United States, which found him to be almost 99% Georgian.
Also, last August, Saakashvili slammed then Rustavi 2 TV journalist Giorgi Gabunia when he presented Georgian artist Lia Ukleba’s painting St. Mary with a toy pistol. His statement was preceded by a call from the Georgian Patriarchate, which banned priests from communicating with Rustavi 2 after this program.
In the same period, Saakashvili also slammed Bera Ivanishvili, son of the so called informal ruler of Georgia, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, for the lyrics of his song and said the singer was attacking the Georgian Church.
Responding to Saakashvili, Giga Bokeria said that when a politician cannot believe that people did not re-elect him, he can no longer move forward and starts to degrade.
“This man and the majority of his team do not care about anyone and have no ability to take the country out of the current bad situation,” he said, adding the European Georgia members did good when they decided to leave Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) in 2017.
Political scientist Giorgi Tskhadaia thinks that conservatism has always been intersected in the politics and rhetoric of the UNM, but the religious element has not been the leading one.
The expert believes that with such statements, Saakashvili’s goal is to mobilize conservative voters and gain more supporters. He says the former President of Georgia sees a rival in European Georgia and this is why he attacked Bokeria.
“These two parties have a common past and it is important to have a unique identity in the competition. The line that European Georgia has developed as a pro-Western liberal party has been reinforced by Saakashvili’s rhetoric. By this token he separated himself from European Georgia. He emphasized that the UNM is a pro-Western power but not a liberal one. It is a nationalist, conservative force,” the expert said.
He also added that Saakashvili’s talk of being nearly a100% Georgian, as well as appealing with religious and traditional issues, coincides with the strengthening of nationalist and Eurosceptic forces in the West, which opponents and analysts call populists.
Tskhadaia believes that Saakashvili’s appeal to such topics may also be linked to the rise of populist forces in the West as the ex-president has repeatedly expressed sympathy for US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban.
“Saakashvili has always drawn a parallel between himself and European populists, including Orban and Trump. It seems that these people are role models for him [Saakashvili] and he is trying to copy their rhetoric, adjusting it to the local context,” he said.
However, how well it fits Georgia is a controversial issue, as Georgian and Western Europe’s history, culture and social environment are very different from one other.
By Tea Mariamidze
Image source: ghn.ge
Source: Georgia Today on the Web