Business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili retracted his earlier pledge to withdraw from the presidential race and said on January 3 that he would “continue to fight on to be elected president.”
“I will not withdraw my candidacy and will continue to fight… to develop Georgia into a true democratic country with an independent parliament and courts,” Patarkatsishvili said in a written statement released by his press office on January 3. “Every objective poll shows that support for Saakashvili does not exceed 20-25%; that is why I am convinced that any higher result would mean that the election had been stolen.”
He said that recently he had spoken on the phone with Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II. Although no election-related issues were discussed, Patarkatsishvili said the conversation “has given me the power to declare” his intention to remain in the presidential race.
Mentioning of the Georgian Orthodox Church in this context triggered the latter to immediately distance itself from Patarkatsishvili’s remarks.
“Except for congratulating the Patriarch on the 30th anniversary of his enthronement, no other issue was discussed. The Georgian Church expresses its regret that once again religion has been used in a political manner. It is absolutely unacceptable to portray the Church as a supporter of any political force,” the Georgian Orthodox Church said in a statement issued shortly after Patarkatsishvili’s announcement.
The tycoon announced his intention to withdraw from the presidential race on December 27. He, however, had not officially asked the Central Election Commission (CEC) to strike his name off the list of presidential candidates. His election campaign HQ had said Patarkatsishvili planned to do that on January 4, just one day before polling day.
Patarkatsishvili’s initial announcement to withdraw from the race came after the Georgian authorities released compromising video and audio tapes implicating him and his allies in an alleged coup plot. The audio tapes purport to show Patarkatsishvili offering USD 100 million to a top Interior Ministry official, Irakli Kodua, in exchange for - among other things - “neutralizing” Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. In a video address to the staff of his TV company, Imedi, Patarkatsishvili confirmed he had offered the bribe, but claimed his intention was to prevent bloodshed in the event of post-election protests.
“All the wiretappings made public by the media are nothing more than a provocation organized by the Georgian special services and have been fabricated only to discredit me,” Patarkatsishvili said in his January 3 statement. “Mr. Saakashvili is not fighting for your well-being or your future. He is clinging to power so that he can escape responsibility for his crimes. Together – and only together – we can defeat the criminal regime.”
He also said that he remained committed to his earlier pre-election promises about spending GEL 1.5 billion of his own money for social assistance and for paying consumers' gas and electricity bills for the next 18 months.
Few hours later after the written statement was released, Patarkatsishvili has also issued a video address in which he repeated everything what he was saying in the written statement. Only extracts from the video address, not full version of address, were aired by the Georgian televisions which triggered Patarkatsishvili protests.
In a separate written statement issued later on January 3, Patarkatsishvili, in particular, complained that those parts of his video address which contained his criticism towards Saakashvili and his pledge to spend GEL 1.5 billion of own money for social assistance programs were not aired.
“I demand this address to be broadcasted immediately, and in full, on TV channels Rustavi 2, Mze, Public Television and to stop discrimination,” Patarkatsishvili said. “This case proves once again that on the one hand – the authorities are scared of the truth, and on the other hand that this election campaign does not meet minimum standards for democratic elections.”
In his written statement, Patarkatsishvili also said: “The election campaign in Georgia is becoming more and more similar to the election campaign in Pakistan, still with one difference – no candidate for the highest office has yet been killed in Georgia, although, the request for assassination was placed with terrorists.” His remarks were made in reference to his earlier accusation that the Georgian authorities were allegedly trying to hire Chechen warlord to assassinate him.