Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Thomas Friedman on technology, Trump and the media

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Terror in Westminster'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Internet users say 'we are not afraid' after Westminster attack

Read more

FOCUS

Pakistan faces water crisis

Read more

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Midwife', 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Girl Asleep'

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

The hidden collection: Iran exhibits contemporary art masterpieces

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

More countries suspend Brazilian meat imports amid scandal

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Brussels attacks, one year on: 'What if their hate has contaminated us?'

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

DR Congo: Rare footage of killings in central Kasaï province sparks alarm

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

Latest update : 2012-09-25

Georgian election sparks bitter divisions

Georgia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections are dividing the country. A bitter campaign is pitching the coalition of Mikhaïl Saakachvili, the current pro-western president, against that of multi-millionaire Bidzina Ivanichvili, a businessman often described as being close to Moscow. In the middle is a divided electorate. Our reporters went to meet them.

"Offering or providing goods in exchange for political support by a political entity is vote-buying," says Giga Bokeria. The head of Georgia’s National Security Council has long been a member of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s inner circle. He’s talking to us about allegations the opposition has been offering voters free goods in exchange for their support in the October 1st parliamentary elections.

The Saakashvili camp is worried about a major new arrival on the political scene: Bidzina Ivanishvili. This hitherto reclusive businessman has succeeded in rapidly building a broad anti-government coalition. He’s not short of cash – Forbes estimates his personal fortune at €5 billion. The 56-year-old made his money buying public assets during the fall of the Soviet Union. Many of his business interests are still in Russia – the country against which Saakashvili fought a war in 2008. He’s even been stripped of his Georgian passport. For now, oddly, he remains a citizen of France.

Ugly campaign

Saakashvili, for his part, has been telling voters they face a choice between the West and Moscow.

"He says I am the Kremlin's man, that I am Putin's puppet. That's all he's using against me because he has nothing else to say. My past is absolutely clean," Ivanishvili assures us in his multimillion-euro base in the hills above Tbilisi. Paintings by Monet and Freud adorn the walls. Ivanishvili prides himself on his good taste, of which he says Saakashvili has none. He’s particularly upset by a new bridge the president has built in the centre of town.

It’s been an ugly campaign, with mutual allegations of bribery, corruption and coercion. As the political rivals trade blows, ordinary Georgians are stuck in the middle, trying to make sense of it all.

The presence of ultra-nationalists in Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition has spooked Georgia’s minority communities, who remember the ethnic tensions that followed the fall of the Soviets. Azeri geography teacher Erman Jarfarli is worried about change: "It doesn’t matter if you’re Armenian, Georgian, Azeri, or whatever - there are no more ethnic problems here."

For him, the country has become safer, richer and more tolerant on Saakashvili’s watch – and that’s the way he wants to keep it.

Amid Tbilisi’s anarchic construction projects, a group of men stand by the roadside in search of passing trade. They’re part-time electricians, plumbers and odd-job men. "Anybody who’s got a job is in with the government, one of them complains. And even then, the salaries are rubbish." It’s a common perception among those left behind by the president’s "economic miracle".

Democracy on trial

Meanwhile, local and international observers fear that, far from fostering the brave new democracy his Western allies dreamt of, Saakashvili’s government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

There’s certainly a touch of the KGB about Nodar Chachua’s account of his treatment by the security forces. This young journalist works for TV9, a channel owned by Ivanishvili’s wife.

Bundled into the back of a car by group of mysterious men, he was asked to "collect compromising information on colleagues as well as political parties and the movements of political leaders".

As voting day approaches, Georgia’s democracy is on trial. The West is watching. And so is the Kremlin.

France 24 reporters Chris Moore and Sylvain Rousseau went to meet the politicians pulling the strings, but also some of the ordinary people caught up in an ugly campaign which has exacerbated Georgia’s divisions.

By Sylvain ROUSSEAU , Christopher MOORE

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-03-16 Americas

Canada’s indigenous people determined to improve their lives

Although Canada regularly tops international rankings for its quality of life, the daily existence of the country’s indigenous people, also known as "First Nations", has more in...

Read more

2017-03-09 Middle East

Iraq's lost children: Victims of post-traumatic stress

In Iraq, thousands of civilians are fleeing the battle of Mosul against the Islamic State group jihadists. Many of the displaced have reached IDP camps in the north of the...

Read more

2017-03-03 Africa

Libya: Six years on, what remains of the revolution in key city of Zintan?

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the revolution that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. With the country divided between rival clans,...

Read more

2014-03-14 Bashar al-Assad

Syria’s chemical attacks: the inside story

A chemical weapons attack targeted the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013. The West threatened air strikes in response, and Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms stockpile....

Read more

2017-02-24 Middle East

Video: India’s Kuki people, possible descendants of one of Israel's lost tribes

In northeastern India, a small ethnic group claims to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The fervour of the Kuki people has persuaded the Chief Rabbi of Israel to approve their...

Read more