Libertarian party Girchi is known on the Georgian political scene for its original approach. It appears to have a growing appeal among younger voters tired of the more mainstream parties.
December 4, 2020 - Eva Modebadze- Articles and Commentary
Photo: eflon flickr.com
In many old and new democracies, the politicalnihilism of young people is a serious concern. Many young people find itchallenging to navigate the advancement of populist ideologies, economictension, fake news, media manipulation and distrust in politics at large. Inemerging Eastern European democracies, where for a long time politics has beenmonopolised by Soviet-style governance, young people have been marginalisedfrom meaningful political participation and disillusioned by the traditionalconduct of politics. While young peoples distrust in political institutionsoften results in lower turnout in elections and lowparticipation in local or national politics, one small political party in post-SovietGeorgia may have found a solution. This party is called Girchi, whichtranslates from Georgian to pinecone a symbol of freshness and enlightenment. Girchi, after just fouryears of political existence, mainly supported by young people, won 2.9 percent of the vote in the 2020 parliamentary elections. Even though most of the oppositionparties including Girchi declared the elections rigid and refused to enter theparliament, it does not change the fact that the party managed to secure atleast four mandates in the 150-strong parliament, outnumbering many larger andexperienced political parties.
Libertarian Girchi is well-known for its grotesque and extraordinary, even slightly freakish, actions, such as opening a brothel in its headquarters, planting marijuana seeds, begging for money at the presidential palace in protest, renting out the leader Zurab Japaridze for New Years Eve, placing a campaign Ad on PornHub and establishing a religious organisation with the sole purpose of helping young men avoid compulsory military service. However, behind its outlandish behaviour, Girchi has a clear political agenda based on libertarianism and classical liberalism advocating for liberty as a fundamental principle, small and transparent government with less bureaucracy and economic liberalism. Girchis liberal democratic formula is simple: economic deregulation leads to prosperity, and prosperity is a prerequisite of democracy and welfare.
Of course, itwould be wrong to assume that we need parties like Girchi because they offersolutions to various crises that current political systems face. Girchissuccess formula seems even too simplistic deregulationof the economy cannot be the panacea for the countrys prosperity. Moreover,Girchi has little to offer when it comes to healthcare, social security,womens participation in politics and environmental problems. However, the politicalpluralism that Girchi offers is essential in challenging the conception thatpolitics is the work of men and women in suits. With its open distrust in Soviet-style biggovernment and the old-fashioned way of conducting politics, on numerousoccasions the party has presented itself as a channel for Georgian youthpolitical participation. With its honesty, complete absence of populism anddevotion to the partys liberal ideals, Girchi managed to enter the mainstream,bringingfreshness into redefining and challenging how politics can and should be done. By that, Pinecone has become anacceptable political force not only to those with the same outlook on politics,but also to some die-hard leftists like myself.
Explaining Girchis success
Before trying to understand Girchis success amongst the young population, the term youth needs to be defined. Who is the youth in Georgia? There are at least three widely-used definitions of youth as a life stage, as a social group and as a generation. In Georgia, youth can be primarily defined as a generation of people born after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the independent country of Georgia. If we borrow the EUs usage of the term, this classification combines Generation Y people born in the 1990s and Generation Z (born in the 2000s).
Young people are considered to be holders of certainvalues and attitudes, sometimes completelydifferent from those of older generations. Some studies underline that youthtend to be more progressive and democratic. This is especially visible in manypost-Soviet states, including Georgia. Even though young peoples values andattitudes largely depend on the social groups and institutions in which theysocialise, with increasing access to the internet and digitalisation, youngpeople are less dependent on the social groups around them, whether it befamily, friends or local community. The changes brought by wide access toinformation and, of course, the disappearance of Soviet ideology made the youthmore independent decision-makers.
Girchi successfully took advantage of rapiddigitalisation and based its pre-election campaign entirely on the internet. Bydoing this, the party also made an indirect focus on younger supporters, whoare generally more digitally-educated consumers of the internet. Interestingly,for the 2020 parliamentary elections Girchi refused to have paid commercialson TV, billboards or any other paid advertisements. Instead, the party basedits entire campaign on GirchisFacebook Page,attracting supporters with creative videos and hashtags # (#historicalvideos) and # (#girchiintheparliament).The leader of the party, Zurab Girchi Japaridze (who added Girchi as his middlename as a tribute to the party), explained this decision by simply statingthat Facebooks free platform was the way to go since they did not haverecourses for an expensive election campaign. It has to be mentioned thatGirchi functions entirely from donations. The list of donors is transparent andavailable to the broader public. Furthermore, after donating, each donorbecomes Girchis partner and gets GeD (Girch Digital Currency) equivalent to thedonated amount, which means that every donor gets involved in Girchispolitical functioning.
The leader of the party explained the partys success by stating, Girchi has the most sincere and heartfelt supporters, who believe in the party idea. Japaridze says that none of the other political parties in Georgia have as many people sincerely devoted to the core idea as they do in Girchi. Indeed, Girchis internet campaign was the opposite of populism and was entirely dedicated to ideas of classical liberalism. Instead of giving appealing promises about social benefits in a country where the average salary is around 300 euros, Girchi advocates for an idea that is not very popular state deregulation in every aspect, letting the invisible hand decide.
With not so appealing messages for the wider public, Girchi has been an avid advocate of the youths increased participation in politics. The party even released a video explaining what happens when young people do not vote. The video narrates, Just because you do not go to elections, politicians give promises to your grandmas and grandpas. Because young people do not vote, informs Girchi, politicians target older voters by focusing on raising pensions. The video claims that the fact that politicians are neither speaking to nor caring about young people getting a better education, having decent jobs nor enjoying their lives is the result of young people not voting in elections. Japaridze believes Girchi is the party of the future, and hopes to attract voters who support decentralisation and minimalisation of state power. Girchis pacifist rhetoric and active support of non-violence in a country with two unresolved territorial conflicts and the experience of civil war proved successful among younger liberal-minded youth. Asked the question of which political party stands closest to you, 40 per cent of Georgians aged between 18-35 say that there is no party, while 5 per cent support Girchi, making it the third party after the two mainstream parties Georgian Dream and United National Movement. Amongst supporters of Girchi, not surprisingly, 84 per cent are aged between 18-35, 12 per centbetween 36-55 and only 4 per cent above 56.
Which party is closestto you? (2019)
Source:CRRC, Caucasus Barometer
Why do we need parties like Pinecone?
So why do we need parties like Girchi? There is nodoubt that citizens inclusive political participation and their ability toinfluence political decision-making is one of the key tenets of democraticpolitics. Increased inclusion of the youth in the formal political process notonly upholds key principles of democracy, but also increases representativeness.That is why liberal-minded parties like Girchi are essential in building thetrust of younger voters in the political system, empowering them to participatein formal political processes and offering a brand-new outlook on the conductof politics, without challenging core democratic values.
Throughout recent decades, European politics has seen increasing popularity of far-right and far-left populist parties. Anti-globalisation, Euroscepticism, protectionism, objection to elitism and support for expanding the welfare state have been common features of parties from both ends of the ideological spectrum. Considering these trends, post-Soviet Georgias Girchi has the potential to become an example of how to bring freshness into staggering European democracies and unite the youth around core libertarian principles. Even though Girchis socially-irresponsible policies, support for marijuana legalisation and other ludicrous statements make it unattractive to older generations, especially in conservative Georgia, it is important that Girchi offers a solution for disenfranchised and disillusioned youth to see alternative politics without having to resort to radical forms of populism or complete nihilism. Girchis anti-establishment attitudes are not just old wine in a new bottle Pinecone utilises a completely new toolkit for alternative politics. This new toolkit is based on strong support for the idea that creativity can be useful in attracting youth to meaningful political participation and lending their voices to the formal decision-making process.
Eva Modebadzeis a postgraduate student at the International Masters programme in Central and Eastern European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CEERES) at the University of Glasgow, UK. Her particular field of interest includes gender and security studies in the post-Soviet space.
Dear Readers -New Eastern Europe is a not-for-profit publication that has been publishing online and in print since 2011. Our mission is to shape the debate, enhance understanding, and further the dialogue surrounding issues facing the states that were once a part of the Soviet Union or under its influence.But we can only achieve this mission with the support of our donors.If you appreciate our work please consider making a donation.
Georgia, Georgian politics, South Caucasus, Youth
- LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Based on relationship | Solve issues together - Arkansas Online - June 20th, 2021
- How the Houses Silicon Valley smackdown is dividing conservatives - POLITICO - June 20th, 2021
- Joe Biden's meeting with Putin, vaccine passports, nightclub shootings, and other top columns - USA TODAY - June 20th, 2021
- Louis Marinelli: Is Europe's interest in the 2014 Vrbetice Explosions driven by the Biden-Putin meeting? - PRNewswire - June 20th, 2021
- Anthony Bland affirms plan to run for governor - Arkansas Times - June 20th, 2021
- Why the Texas ACA Suit Was Always Destined to Fail (Even on a 6-3 Court) - Reason - June 20th, 2021
- Biden Likely to Patch Things Up With Putin at Summit - Libertarian Party - UrduPoint News - June 20th, 2021
- How the Right Is Dividing over the Nature of Power - National Review - June 15th, 2021
- Colorado legislation could mean up to $617 million in tax and fee increases, think tank says - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - June 15th, 2021
- Meet the Conservative Evangelicals Practicing 'Strategic Hibernation' in the American Northwest - ChristianityToday.com - June 15th, 2021
- Finance Colombia The Reason Foundation's Daniel Raisbeck On What Peru's Election Can Tell Us About Economic Liberty In Colombia & Latin America -... - June 15th, 2021
- You can't tell the Republicans from the Democrats in state Legislature - Gaston Gazette - June 11th, 2021
- Paul Krugman's 10-Year History of Being Wrong About Bitcoin - Reason - June 11th, 2021
- Rossi holds big lead in 59th Legislative District special election - TribDem.com - May 22nd, 2021
- A Top Rand Paul Donor Is Dropping Big Bucks to Elect Andrew Yang Mother Jones - Mother Jones - May 22nd, 2021
- Wingfield: Reagan's words on government programs still ring true - Savannah Morning News - May 22nd, 2021
- Georgia Lawmakers Grapple With Role Of Social Media Companies And Free Speech | 90.1 FM WABE - WABE 90.1 FM - May 22nd, 2021
- Will a Coalition of Hawks, Mormons, and Libertarian-Leaners Form a New Third Party? - Reason - May 18th, 2021
- Johnson the civil libertarian wants to have his voter ID card and eat it - MSN UK - May 18th, 2021
- Special interests flood the mayor's race as candidates race to the finish line - Politico - May 18th, 2021
- Matthew McConaughey is 'making calls' as he mulls a run for Texas governor - The Independent - May 18th, 2021
- 3 candidates vie to fill vacancy in 59th district special election - TribLIVE - May 14th, 2021
- Robb Luther to appear as Libertarian candidate on ballot for 59th District seat - latrobebulletinnews.com - May 14th, 2021
- Election roundup: Essaibi George gets the nod from Gross; Libertarians jump into council race - Universal Hub - May 14th, 2021
- The Rise of the Thielists - The New Yorker - May 14th, 2021
- Government accused of nutty nanny statism over junk food ad ban - Evening Standard - May 14th, 2021
- Hart: Biden and Carter are two peanuts in the same shell game - Chattanooga Times Free Press - May 14th, 2021
- LETTER: It's time to look for another party - Meadville Tribune - May 14th, 2021
- PURPLE IS THE NEW PARTY | What is a Republican today? - Ventura County Reporter - May 14th, 2021
- Top fiscal conservative group targeting Bidens infrastructure proposal with new campaign - Fox Business - May 14th, 2021
- Public records law that ignores reality will always fall short - The Nevada Independent - May 14th, 2021
- Covid, Liberty and Responsibility: Where's the Line? - Bloomberg - May 9th, 2021
- Judge: Arizona political parties don't have to be invited to extra election recounts - Your Valley - May 9th, 2021
- Why Trump is more likely to win in the GOP than to take his followers to a new third party - The Conversation US - May 9th, 2021
- Meet the Dream Team Suing the Biden Administration Over Your Right To Sell Your Kidney - Reason - May 9th, 2021
- The 'Post-Covid-19 World' Will Never Come. - Scoop.co.nz - May 9th, 2021
- The Red Flags in Biden's State of the Union Address - Reason - May 9th, 2021
- Letter to the editor: Thoughts on Charen, Biden, race relations, military - TribLIVE - May 1st, 2021
- Editorial: On women in office, we're still only getting there - Plattsburgh Press Republican - May 1st, 2021
- Top elections official admits fundraising error - The Herald - May 1st, 2021
- Bring civility back to politics -- and to life in general - darnews.com - May 1st, 2021
- McNeely: McConaughey for governor? | Opinion | news-journal.com - Longview News-Journal - April 29th, 2021
- Candidates seeking 48th Senatorial District seat put their differences on display - PennLive - April 23rd, 2021
- Pellerin: Don't flout COVID rules in the name of 'freedom' - London Free Press (Blogs) - April 21st, 2021
- N. Quabbin represented at political state convention, as growing third-party marks 50th anniversary - Athol Daily News - March 26th, 2021
- Humility Is Where Conservatives And Libertarians Can Still Find Fusion - The Federalist - March 26th, 2021
- Former state Rep. Jeff Pyle's staffer wins GOP nomination for special election, Dems choose Thursday night - TribLIVE - March 26th, 2021
- Libertarian Students Convention | Mises Institute - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - March 26th, 2021
- March 25, 2021, Letters to the Editor | Serving Minden-Gardnerville and Carson Valley - The Record-Courier - March 26th, 2021
- Where 'freedom' meets the far right: the hate messages infiltrating Australian anti-lockdown protests - The Guardian - March 26th, 2021
- What's on the March 20 ballot? Baton Rouge residents will vote on these congressional, local races - The Advocate - March 25th, 2021
- Were the Capitol Rioters Really Libertarians? - Foundation for Economic Education - January 29th, 2021
- A Florida Senator Wants to Exclude People With Felony Convictions from the State's Minimum Wage Increase - The Appeal - January 29th, 2021
- A new Chatham Elections Board member was sworn in last week. This week, she resigned. - Savannah Morning News - January 29th, 2021
- The political beliefs of the Class of 2024 by race, gender and other factors - Duke Chronicle - January 29th, 2021
- Livorno, the Rebel City Where Italy's Communist Party Was Born - Jacobin magazine - January 29th, 2021
- HB79 Allowing Minor Party Members To Vote In Primaries Passes Government, Elections And Indian Affairs Committee - Los Alamos Daily Post - January 29th, 2021
- Mostly libertarian demonstration gathered outside of closed, guarded Texas Capitol Sunday - WJTV - January 23rd, 2021
- Groups across Texas head to Texas Capitol for "mostly libertarian" demonstration - ArkLaTexHomepage - January 23rd, 2021
- Wikipedia 20th anniversary | The libertarian internet dinosaur has become the worlds largest encyclopedia - Inspired Traveler - January 17th, 2021
- Marshawn Wolley: Like the tea party, Trumpism will die - Indianapolis Business Journal - January 17th, 2021
- How the right claimed liberty and made it a toxic word - New Statesman - January 17th, 2021
- What is a libertarian? | Libertarianism.org - January 9th, 2021
- 5 things the Libertarian Party stands for | TheHill - January 9th, 2021
- We all bear the responsibility to come together - Williston Daily Herald - January 9th, 2021
- The Libertarian Alternative | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute - January 7th, 2021
- Libertarian and Green parties cry foul over ballot change - Niagara Gazette - January 7th, 2021
- Libertarian, Green parties file injunction in lawsuit aimed at state efforts to quell third parties - The Daily News Online - January 7th, 2021
- Yellow Gadsden flag, prominent in Capitol takeover, carries a long and shifting history - The Conversation US - January 7th, 2021
- 17,000 Onondaga County voters have a decision to make: Should I enroll in another party? - syracuse.com - January 7th, 2021
- Sue Lani Madsen: End this madness of brother against brother - The Spokesman-Review - January 7th, 2021
- What everyone needs to know about 2020 | OUPblog - OUPblog - January 7th, 2021
- Boris Johnson's lockdown rebels have gone quiet. But it won't be for long - The Guardian - January 7th, 2021
- Letter: Libertarian Party has the answers - Times Herald-Record - December 6th, 2020
- Libertarian Ron Paul: Legalize Bitcoin and Abolish the IRS - Decrypt - December 6th, 2020
- Why conservatives in the US today are really libertarians - Business Insider - Business Insider - December 6th, 2020
- Be Cool Like Kennedy! Donate to Reason, and Help Us Spread #HotFreedom - Reason - December 6th, 2020
- The Libertarian Argument Is the Best Argument Against Immunity Passports. But is it good enough? - Practical Ethics - December 6th, 2020
- From Libertarians To Nationalists, Millennials Are Shaping The New Right - The Federalist - December 6th, 2020
- 'We're Gonna Need a Bigger Website' - Reason - December 6th, 2020