Is this Georgia’s answer to Hugo Chavez?

January 24, 2009

Reuters News correspondent Matt Robinson filed this post from Tbilisi:

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is back. In a marathon Q&A session on Georgian television on Friday he said he himself was in great shape, but that the parliament speaker’s heart had recently stopped beating after suffering an allergic reaction to medication.

“As a result his heart stopped, he was in collapse,” Saakashvili said, tanned and relaxed. “But then they managed to save him.” He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and read out text messages from his poorly colleague.

As for the prime minister, he’s working too hard. “I was calling him at 3 a.m. and he was in the office. I come to work at 11, sometimes 11.15. He’s in the office from 8 a.m. I told him he won’t last like that.”

Saakashvili’s relaxed banter dominated the 4-hour show, leaving the impression of a man firmly in control of his government, if not perhaps his train of thought.

The format was familiar. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made a tradition of his annual televised phone-in with Russians, but their styles could hardly be more different. Think more Venezuela’s fast-talking Hugo Chavez.

“I’m not planning to die, nor to step down,” 41-year-old Saakashvili said.

There was a period recently when it looked as though Saakashvili had dug his own political grave, having attacked breakaway South Ossetia  in August last year and, according to his critics and even some of his allies, effectively walked into war with neighbouring Russia.

He was on the back foot, defending his fateful decision of Aug. 7 and facing renewed criticism of his record on democracy and freedom of speech since coming to power on the back of the 2003 “Rose Revolution”.

His late-night briefings and eccentric behaviour — he chewed his tie on camera before a television interview — became legendary. His appetite and energy are famous.

But the opposition looks divided.  An opposition rally called for Sunday, Jan 25 was cancelled as leaders bickered over their aims. Saakashvili has quipped that he would have toppled the Georgian government within five months had he been in opposition during such a devastating period. Observers who counted him out
would do well to think again.

“One day (Grigol) Mgaloblishvili won’t be prime minister, and one day Saakashvili won’t be president, but I’m telling you that as long as I’m in such good shape, no serious collapse threatens our government,” he said on Friday.

A mixture of pre-recorded and live studio questions were dominated by social issues, concerns about the economy and the plight of Georgian villagers displaced by the fighting.

But there was little scrutiny of Saakashvili’s decision to attack South Ossetia. Many Georgians appear to have accepted his argument that his hand was forced, that the separatists had stepped up shelling of Georgian villages and Russia was sending in armour to help them.

The question of whether the president was to blame rarely reaches Georgian homes. On Friday, Saakashvili steered the debate. Russia is in crisis, he said. “Its economy is standing on fragile glass legs.” Georgia, on the other hand, is keeping the global financial crisis at bay.

Occasionally, he digressed. “Who do you think is the most popular pop singer in the world? Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson? No, it’s Georgia’s Katie Melua!”

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The author must be Neville Chamberlain’s grand son. Russia never made a secret of its plans for South Ossetia or Abkhazia and placed military puppets in those regions as early as in 90-s, backed by Russian army in the form of “peacekeepers”. Putin just had the nerve to openly invade Georgia last year after yes, series of provocations from his proxy separatist “governments”. Some Russian analysts have predicted the date of Russian invasion into Georgia as early as in January 2008 and in fact Russian top military openly declared Russia will respond by military action to NATO expansion. Putin decided the United States and the West will swallow this the same way they swallowed Hitler’s attacks on Czechoslovakia and Poland. So far his calculations prove to be correct.

Posted by Alex Ksovreli | Report as abusive

WOW, JUST WOW! Christian Lowe… such arrogance is quite shocking…

Comparing Saakashvili (even with all the good in him) to Putin or Chavez… is just sick and a shining example of arrogance.

First of all you probably did not notice the very SHARP difference in the tone of questions given by Georgians and the hosts to the president? I doubt anyone would ask Putin anything like that, unless he would be asking for a joke about cutting off his “balls”… like the one Putin gave to a French journalist.

Secondly you probably really did not understand hoe the president answered questions, he just said that Keti Melua is a very famous singer that is all. No need to turn it into something ridiculous to support your stupid “article”…

About a tie – WHAT would you chew Mr.Lowe if 1,5 million strong army invaded your country? Only please restraint from the answer that you would avoid this war, because the west HAS provoked this was itself when it recognised Kosovo and pushed missiles is Poland AND PUTIN HAS STATED MANY TIMES IN DECEMBER 2007 AND JANUARY 2008 DURING HIS PRESS CONFERENCES : “IF THE WEST PUSHES THIS ISSUES FURTHER THAT WILL BE A SIGNAL FOR US, WE WILL GIVE AN ASYMMETRIC ANSWER TO THE WEST WHICH WILL INCLUDE THE MILITARY COMPONENT” – IN APRIL GEORGIA AND UKRAINE WERE REFUSED NATO MAP… the rest his history.

Russia amassed it’s military at Georgian border, was shooting down Georgian drones on Georgian soil, was shelling Georgian villages inside country. Of course the EU is absolutely not interested in defending anything, the usual – “We urge both sides to keep restraint” – they can eat the paper they write those statements on…

UN- was as always too corrupt and busy with stealing the international funds and nothing else.

US- Was busy with IRAQ, IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, ISRAEL, ECONOMICS, BUSH all the rest… and not interested in Georgia.


– Why Saakashvili of course and the hell the winter was coming and Sarkozy as Merkel and the rest of MOFO’s were interested in Russian Oil and Gas and not the fact that Georgians were getting killed in their own country because of the decisions Georgians had nothing to do with.

And if you ask us – But didn’t Sakrozy help you guys? THE ANSWER IS HELL NO! WE WANTED SAKROZY BEFORE THE WAR! BEFORE NOT AFTER RUSSIANS TORE APART OUR COUNTRY. Or at least we wanted the west NOT to make provocative decisions, that would make Russia invade us.


WHY should I be explaining this to YOU? YOU are getting payed for this right? Do some research!

Posted by James | Report as abusive

No help from the West or NATO will change the course of this current despotic government who brutally oppresses it’s citizens.. Not long ago, the world has witnessed how government troops violently put down the public protest, it followed by shutting down the independent media and imprisoning political opponents.

Mr Hugo Chavez has some fine tricks to learn from unhinged and deeply deluded President Saakashvili as to how to steal and punish the citizens of your own country.

Posted by Tom Klan | Report as abusive

Well Tom, you are wrong.

“No help from the West or NATO will change the course of this current despotic government who brutally oppresses it’s citizens.. ”

– Eh what? Every day you get tons of people and opposition criticizing the government and the president on any TV channel and paper media. Besides I don’t think that the west is helping us where we REALLY need it. The only real help would be NOT provoking Russia with Kosovo or missiles, in a way… it is too late now. So thank you guys, you did enough, not granting NATO MAP in April was also greatly helpful.

“Not long ago, the world has witnessed how government troops violently put down the public protest,”

– When the protestants get aggressive the government has the right to intervene, I am a simple citizen and I think the opposition was baiting the government and provoking it.

Besides you say “violently” – I say the police use tear gas and water canons… what do the police forces use in other democratic states in such cases sir?? NOBODY WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED!

“it followed by shutting down the independent media”

– ONLY 1 channel was shut down and for FEW WEEKS ONLY! Besides that channel was NOT independent, it had it’s agenda and was one of the sources of provocation. I disagree with the police entering and crashing some broadcasting apparatus in the “Imedi” channel building. BUT the government HAS fully refunded the losses of that TV channel. BESIDES in Georgia there are MANY other TV channels that criticize the government and the president even more harshly that that one. But I think the problem is many simply don’t get it that with the freedom comes the responsibility.

“and imprisoning political opponents.”

– FOR A WEEK OR SO, ONLY FEW WERE IMPRISONED AND YES, THEY TOTALLY ASKED FOR IT! I’d do much worse to them, prosecute for causing mass disorders for NO REAL REASONS!

WHAT WERE THE REASONS FOR THOSE RIOTS? I REALLY DON’T KNOW and while I listened to the opposition leaders I think they had absolutely No idea what they wanted other than “throwing away Saakashvili” But why? He crushed corruption and made his country’s economy grow in double digits.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

I doubt that this guy is like Hugo Chavez. If he was, the United States would label him a terrorist, lol.

I have a close friend who is from Georgia and still has family there. Basically Saakashvili is known to be blindly pro-american there, even if it would be better to be close to Russia and Putin. I don’t buy the negative press on Putin, especially after reading this article about how Litvinenko’s death looks like a set up: Litvinenko – By Way of Deception

Posted by robert | Report as abusive