Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Badri effect

No one in Georgia -- no one at all -- will believe that Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, regardless of what a post mortem finds. The speculation will center around whether it was Russian agents, Georgian agents or a rival oligarch who killed him.

This will further radicalize the opposition, which is planning a protest on Friday. Many of the opposition leaders are paranoid and prone to rash decisions; some will be genuinely frightened by the possibility that a political enemy of the state was assassinated.

At the demonstration, you can count on opposition figures explicitly alleging murder, lending a severe edge to their rallying cry of "ar meshinia" (I'm not afraid). The opposition politicians who see negotiations as a deadend, and fear being boxed into a corner by unreliable public support for their antagonism toward the government, will have an incentive to leverage this protest into something more powerful than a display of disaffection.

Overall, even though Patarkatsishvili will not be missed by most Georgian voters, his death will rattle the country -- not helpful when domestic politics remain volatile.