Lelo in the international publications spotlight - Khazardaze’s step into politics has provoked politically motivated attack on him

Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of TBC Bank and Anaklia Development Consortium, held on September 12 a presentation of a new public movement “Lelo” in Georgia’s coastal town of Anaklia.  

“Lelo” is in the influential international publications’ spotlight.  On September 15 EU Today published an article entitled “En Marche style ‘Lelo’ movement launches in Georgia.”

According to the author of the article, Guest Contributor, it is expected that this movement will develop into a new Georgian political party. The word ‘Lelo’ means “the team effort that delivers success”.

“Speaking at the launch in Anaklia, the Georgian town where Mr Khazaradze has been involved in the development of a strategically important new deep seaport, he said: “We are establishing a movement today. Our movement will be aimed at teamwork, the achievement of goals, love, unity and the victory of Georgia. We are now in Anaklia, where a huge project of enormous potential has to be implemented and is being implemented. Anaklia is a place where many jobs will be created and it is an opportunity for Georgia to return to its neighbourhood, region and world map once and for all.”

Mr Khazaradze went on to say: “This country should not be saved by the messiah or someone else, but each of us, so I’m looking for leaders.” He explained that the new Lelo movement will find 12 people in various areas including medicine, education and local leaders. He added that the vision for the movement is that it will be a “party of leaders” with a horizontal structure.  He also outlined the need for clear timelines for the party to develop, saying: “We will set dates and specific goals in order to get this country very quickly out of this situation, or we will be in a swamp”, - the article said.

Guest Contributor emphasizes Mamuka Khazaradze's successful business activities and educational projects supported by him:

“Mr Khazaradze is a Georgian businessman who co-founded the largest Georgian universal bank, JSC TBC Bank in 1992. He graduated from Tbilisi Technical University in 1988 and also holds an executive degree from Harvard Business School, where he studied during 1998-2000. In 2014, Mr Khazaradze was awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Georgia, the first such award to a Georgian business. He was awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence in 2010.

In addition to the Anaklia deep seaport project, he also co-founded the IDS Borjomi mineral water company with his business partners, building on the Borjomi mineral water brand that was well known throughout the Soviet Union.  He also supported the founding of the Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi (GZAAT) a private high-school co-founded in 2001 by Guivy Zaldastanishvili”.

According to the article, “Mr Khazaradze’s foray into politics has been met with resistance from the Georgian establishment”. 

“Shortly after his announcement in July 2019 that he planned to launch a political movement in September, he was faced with fraud charges relating to an 11-year old transaction at TBC bank. International observers in Tbilisi believe those charges to be fabricated in response to his step into politics, with Lelo seen as a realistic contender to fill the gap among the electorate where voters are disillusioned with the established Georgian Dream and United National Movement parties. One foreign correspondent hinted that Mr Khazaradze’s involvement in the Ankalia port had also made establishment figures such as Bidzina Ivanshvili, the Chairman of the Goergian Dream party, nervous that Mr Khazaradze’s influence inside Georgia would grow,” the article said.

EU Political Report published also the above-mentioned article. 

On September 16 Another international publication Eureporter also published an article entitled “Seaside birth of a new Georgia political movement”.

According to the author of the article, Martin Banks, “the movement was launched at a seaside gathering at which a giant yellow canvas was signed, first by Khazaradze and then by all the leaders who had assembled on the beach. They affirmed their commitment to the movement and the imminent transformation of that movement into a full-blown political party.”

“Today, we are presenting a new movement, which will pursue a goal oriented to teamwork, achieving purposes, love, unity, victory of Georgia,” Khazaradze said. He noted that Georgia’s western orientation should be further strengthened and that the country should strive to take a leading place in all spheres.

“Georgia has lost a lot during this period; it has lost its territories, failed to achieve economic growth; it is losing investments and what is most important, it is losing its own people, who are leaving the country,” Khazaradze said, adding that he would use his experience to create jobs, open up opportunities for people and return talented Georgians scattered across the world to their homeland.

Khazaradze also stated that he will set up a political party in the near future that “will be oriented to win the 2020 parliamentary elections.” He asserted that this party will not be looking to cooperate with other parties, but rather to run independently, without relying on famous politicians.

Khazaradze explained how the Lelo movement will work, with twelve leaders from each important sector, including medicine, education and so on.  For him, this as an important part of how Lelo will work, based on his belief that Georgia will be saved by each citizen, rather than one man in a “messiah” role. 

Khazaradze’s business partner, Badri Japaridze also addressed the audience, saying that “we should try and defeat a syndrome of the defeated. The time has come to win a victory, to unite and score Lelo,” Japaridze said. He told the media  later that the new party will be established in October.

Mamuka Khazaradze announced about his plans to set up a new public movement in July, following violent dispersal of the July 20-21 protests by riot police.

“That was a watershed, when our praiseworthy and free youth expressed consistent and sincere protest against occupation and violence,” Khazaradze said on July 7 and explained that his new movement will aim at “uniting the country and maintaining its independence and liberty”.

Lelo, the name chosen for the movement, is a reference to the traditional Georgian team game, and also means to score a try in a rugby game. Prior to announcing the name of the movement, Khazaradze read verse “O, my native land” (In Georgian: “Mshobliuro Chemo Mitsav”) by acclaimed Georgian national poet Galaktion Tabidze, that portrays Georgia as “lelo” that needs to be saved.

Using further political symbolism, the presentation of the new public movement coincided with the 112th anniversary of assassination of the prominent Georgian writer and public figure, Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907), a key figure of Georgian nationalism and the self-determination struggle during Tsarist Russia.

Some international observers based in Tbilisi fear that Khazardaze’s step into politics has provoked a politically motivated attack on him, leading to fraud charges relating to am 11-year old transaction being brought against him after his July political declaration. Others believe he has been targeted because Georgian Dream Chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili feared that Khazaradze’s involvement in the Anaklia deep-water port would have increased Khazaradze’s influence within Georgia.” the article said. 

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