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Spring brings more protests and more challenges

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Wednesday, January 30
The opposition has set another deadline, February 15, for a new list of ultimatums. Changes to the election law, media and power ministries need to be made, they say, to ensure free and fair parliamentary elections in spring.

Many of their wide-ranging demands are more than reasonable, including reforms to the woefully broken Central Election Commission and a full investigation into what happened on November 7. But there is no chance that the government will, or even can, meet all of these demands in the next two weeks.

With little room for compromise, opposition leaders are promising a February repeat of November 2, when tens of thousands turned out in front of parliament for a massive, but peaceful, show of discontent with the policies of Mikheil Saakashvili.

But they are unlikely to dig their feet into Rustaveli cement in February, camping out as in November; instead, with parliamentary elections soon to follow, the rally will be a show of strength to kick off the opposition’s parliamentary elections campaign.

The opposition can make large gains in parliament, and it is critical that the government let them.

Saakashvili won the most votes in the presidential election, but January 5 was preceded by a campaign of systemic abuse of administrative resources and intimidation of voters. The voting itself was plagued by incompetence, uncertainty and malfeasance.

If the next elections show no improvement and opposition supporters feel robbed once again, post-election protests may be not a show of strength, but an exercise of strength. And that would be far more disastrous for this government than losing seats in parliament.