Georgian Dream’s Doublethink May Backfire In Tbilisi – Analysis


By Giorgi Revishvili 

(Eurasianet) — The ruling Georgian Dream party has entered a time warp. For the government, it’s 1984, not 2024. Party leaders are embracing the concept of doublethink concerning Georgia’s European Union accession bid: they say they favor accession to the European Union, but their actions aim to purge EU values from the country.

Doublethink in George Orwell’s masterpiece is defined as the ability to believe two contradictory concepts are valid and achievable simultaneously. The former prime minister and the current chairman of GD, Irakli Garibashvili, spoke in doublethink on April 20, tellingreporters that EU membership for Georgia was still a goal, while adding that “today, we are not ready to become a [European Union] member country.” 

The best indicator of GD’s intentions for the country is the reintroduction of draft legislation, dubbed the foreign agents bill. If adopted as currently written, the bill would muzzle Georgia’s vibrant non-profit sector and independent media outlets, drastically curtailing watchdog activities to hold the government accountable for its actions. It runs counter to Georgia’s constitutionally enshrined goal of joining the EU, and it directly contradicts Brussels’ reform requirements to keep Georgia’s candidacy on track. The legislation’s reintroduction at this point is nothing short of deliberate sabotage.

By alienating the EU for domestic political purposes, GD is pivoting away from the West and drifting back into Russia’s geopolitical orbit. Senior Russian officials, including the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had lauded GD’s reintroduction of the foreign agents bill.

That should come as no surprise, given that the GD legislation emulates a long-standing law in Russia. GD leaders also swaddle it in doublethink designed to exacerbate the polarization trend in society. They claim the bill conforms to EU standards and is crafted to enhance transparency about funding sources. They add that the legislation’s requirements are not onerous, saying NGOs and media outlets receiving foreign funding will “only need to file a declaration.” 

GD, however, isn’t fooling many in Brussels. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has taken issue with GD’s alternate reality, stating flatly the bill is “not consistent with Georgia’s EU aspiration.”

With parliamentary elections coming this fall, GD’s strategic goal is to remain in power at all costs. Democratic backsliding and the embrace of Russia-style authoritarian methods serve as tools for GD to achieve this objective.

The government is also taking preventative action to shield influential leaders from the potential imposition of secondary sanctions. On April 19, Parliament fast-tracked legislation known as “The Offshore Law,” which provides for a tax holiday for asset transfers moving from offshore accounts into Georgia. This legislation is widely perceived as tailor-made for Georgia’s grey eminence, Bidzina Ivanishvili, an oligarch who amassed a fortune in Russia. Some observers in Tbilisi believe that Ivanishvili will be one of the first individuals targeted if sanctions are imposed. Thus, he may be interested in repatriating his money before it becomes problematic for him to do so.

The ruling party uses state-affiliated media, social media pages and “administrative resources” to amplify government messages and discredit all opposing voices. Government narratives seek to appeal to national pride by emphasizing the preservation of “sovereignty and national interests of the country from foreign interference.” 

Unlike in 2023, when mass protests forced GD to backtrack the first occasion it introduced foreign agents legislation, this time around party leaders are employing different tactics. Their aim, it seems, is to prolong the adoption process in the hopes of wearing out protesters. Some Tbilisi observers believe the final push to approve the bill will come in mid-May.

There’s one problem with that timeline, however. GD’s new tactics have proven ineffective in diminishing opposition to the bill: protests in Georgia show no signs of cooling off. Predominantly spearheaded by Georgian Gen Zers, youth activists have been organizing rolling, spontaneous, large-scale rallies. 

Protests in Georgia are typically led by political parties or public figures, but the current center of gravity is youth activism. Generally, it has been perceived, and somewhat accurately, that the youth have had little interest in politics, but this trend is rapidly changing. GD overreach has awakened a powerful segment of the electorate, one that is capable of effective organization and messaging.

This transformation of the political process poses a formidable challenge for Georgian Dream. Discrediting youth activists is proving a much more difficult task for GD than outmaneuvering opposition politicians.

In recent years, GD has benefited from voter apathy that has helped keep election participation numbers relatively low. This year, the active engagement of youth in the political process promises higher turnouts, raising the chances of an upset defeat in the parliamentary elections, provided, of course, the vote is free and fair.

GD was counting on the United States and EU being distracted this year by the US elections and the Russia-Ukraine war. That still may be the case. But it seems that GD miscalculated that young people in Georgia would stay on the sidelines as it took steps to dismantle individual liberties and cement its power in place. 

It’s too early to say how it will all turn out for Georgian Dream. Party leaders may not get what they want, but they may get what they need to scuttle Georgia’s EU ambitions. A loss at the polls in the fall remains a long-shot possibility.GD possesses considerable financial and administrative resources, enabling it to effectively mobilize its electorate. The party has the wherewithal to survive the potential withdrawal of the foreign agents bill for a second time, and still go on to win. GD will only face an electoral setback if voter turnout is sky high; the higher the turnout, the lower the odds for the incumbents.

Georgia stands at a critical juncture. Passage of the foreign agents bill and the upcoming elections will determine whether the country can maintain its fledgling democracy or succumb to Russia-style authoritarian rule. Given the stakes, the US and EU need to pay greater attention and develop a more robust strategy for holding GD accountable for its illiberal actions.

  • Giorgi Revishvili is a political analyst and a former senior advisor at the Office of the National Security Council of Georgia.


Originally published at Eurasianet. Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on the most important developments in the region. A tax-exempt [501(c)3] organization, Eurasianet is based at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, one of the leading centers in North America of scholarship on Eurasia. Read more at

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