In an attempt to capitalize on a recent scandal involving Badri Patarkatsishvili, the authorities have been increasingly emphasizing the links between the nine-party opposition coalition and its presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze and the controversial business tycoon.
Patarkatsishvili, following the release of tapes purporting to show he was planning a coup d'etat, withdrew from the presidential race on December 27.
“There was one political force, which was saying that it was engaged in political consultations with Patarkatsishvili and everyone knows it because it was publicly said; this force is Gachechiladze’s team,” Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister, said on a late night political talk show on Rustavi 2 TV on December 27.
She then recalled recent statements by Levan Gachechiladze and his allies about Patarkatsishvili.
“Several days ago we heard Gachechiladze saying that he would [if elected] use Patarkatsishvili’s money to fill, as he put it, empty state coffers. The next day the position changed and they [the nine-party opposition coalition] started saying that they were not at all interested in Patarkatsishvili and started to disassociate themselves from him. Today they announced that all these recent developments were the result of “dirty political games” between Patarkatsishvili and Saakashvili. But even today one of the members of this coalition, Giorgi Khaindrava, continues saying that Patarkatsishvili was, is and will be his friend and these differences of opinion about Patarkatsishvili within the coalition are a source of concern,” Tkeshelashvili said.
Levan Gachechiladze said on December 27, following the release of the so-called coup tapes, that both Saakashvili and Patarkatsishvili were “playing dirty games” in an attempt “to thwart the election and discredit free media outlets.”
The day before, Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, condemned on behalf of the coalition what he called the illegal methods used by both the authorities and “other forces,” apparently referring to Patarkatsishvili. “We have nothing in common with either of these forces,” he said.
The bloc's recent attempts to distance itself from the tycoon stand uneasy with earlier public comments.
On December 24 Gachechiladze said on a Rustavi 2 political talk show that he would use Patarkatsishvili’s finances to beef-up “empty [state] coffers.”
In early December a group of politicians from the coalition visited London where they met with Patarkatsishvili. “We are interested in having free and transparent elections and in coordinating our campaigns,” Davit Usupashvili, one of those who met Patarkatsishvili in London, said on December 8.
On December 28, however, the bloc insisted that its sole purpose in talking to Patarkatsishvili had been to convince him to withdraw from the presidential race.