Graybeards may recall a quote that defined American involvement in the Vietnam War, attributed to an anonymous officer in the US Army in 1968: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”
In Georgia these days, the ruling Georgian Dream Party, led by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, seems to be operating according to a variant of that twisted maxim: In order to restore the rule of law, it’s ok to play fast and loose with due process.
The wacky way the Georgian Dream is trying to promote justice was on full display June 27, when police detained 23 officials from Tbilisi municipality, then released them, only to re-arrest a few of them later the same day.
Representatives of the minority United National Movement (UNM), loyal to President Mikheil Saakashvili, say the arrests are nothing more than an act of political revenge, and assert they will protest by boycotting parliamentary work. Among those arrested were city council officials and deputy Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, a senior UNM member and close ally of President Saakashvili.
Police charged the officials with embezzlement of public funds, while vigorously denying any political motivation in their actions. Some members of the Georgian Dream did concede that the original round-up ran afoul of proper arrest procedures. The Interior Ministry claimed that the officials misappropriated sums from the city development fund and used public money provide hors d’oeuvres for UNM party gatherings. To substantiate the claim, the ministry released footage showing the officials collecting cash from ATMs.
The arrests took place just as Georgia was trying to demonstrate bipartisan support for NATO integration during a visit to Tbilisi by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The secretary-general, speaking at a June 27 news conference, rapped Ivanishvili’s government over the arrests.
Ivanishvili disavowed any political motivation behind the recent arrests of UNM loyalists, even as he has targeted Saakashvili himself after he leaves the presidency.
While the UNM arrests are making foreign officials uneasy, many Georgians believe the party should be held accountable for alleged abuses of power.