Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Organic farming in France: Green is the new black

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Nigeria : Suicide bombers die in failed attack with suspected Boko Haram links

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Turning On Trump?

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World According to Trump (part 1)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Kim Jong-Un, François Fillon, French Police Brutality (part 2)

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Europe market jitters: Political risks give investors cause for concern

Read more

FOCUS

A closer look at former Colombian president Uribe's murky past

Read more

FASHION

Haute Coiffure: When hairdressing becomes a work of art

Read more

#TECH 24

The startup space race

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

2017-02-16 Asia-pacific

Thailand still mourning its beloved King Bhumibol

He was the world’s richest monarch – wealthier than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II - and the longest-serving, spending 70 years on the throne. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej,...

Read more

2017-02-09 Africa

Rose Nathike: S. Sudan athlete’s race for a better life

For Rose Nathike, running is a way of life. First the South Sudanese athlete ran to flee the war in Sudan. Then she trained at her refugee camp in northern Kenya. Finally she...

Read more

2017-02-02 jihad

Video: Jihad Sisters, French women bound for ISIS

France 24 brings you an exceptional documentary in partnership with French TV news magazine "Envoyé spécial", on the hidden women of the jihadist web, the "sisters" of the...

Read more

2017-01-26 Asia-pacific

Flight MH370: Families of missing passengers search for the truth

It’s a unique case in the history of modern aviation. Nearly three years after its disappearance, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, has still...

Read more

2017-01-19 Burundi

Burundi: Fear and Exile

When Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a controversial third mandate in April 2015, he sparked a major crisis and many demonstrations. Since...

Read more