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Opposition rejects government offer

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Friday, February 15
A ‘permanent’ protest rally is set to go ahead today as the government and opposition fail to find common ground on a list of 17 demands the opposition say are crucial for holding fair parliamentary elections this spring.

Yesterday the government staked out their position in a 22-point memorandum; the opposition reject it, saying it does not meet most of their demands.

“We prepared the memorandum which addressed almost all the issues brought up by the opposition,” Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze told reporters yesterday, continuing, “The government is presenting very serious proposals and very serious steps have been taken to make an agreement possible through consensus.”

The opposition submitted 17 demands to the government on January 29 but later suspended talks, saying they would not resume until the government delivers on three key issues: replacing the chair of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and director general of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GBP) as well as releasing “political prisoners.”

The memorandum pledges to release “within a week” anyone arrested and imprisoned on November 7, the day of a violent police crackdown on peaceful protestors in central Tbilisi, but makes no mention of anyone else the opposition claim to be “political prisoners.”

It also says a new GPB head will be elected by a new board of trustees that is acceptable to both sides, and that the composition of the CEC will be revised through consultations with the opposition by mid-March.

The government memorandum also outlines plans to set up a parliamentary commission to investigate the police crackdown on November 7, but adds that this will be established after parliamentary elections and will not have the power to initiate criminal proceedings. A special council to address election-related complaints is also proposed to be set up by the end of March.

Speaking to the Messenger last night, opposition coalition representative MP Kakha Kukava said that signing the document is out of the question, as 15 of the original 17 demands are totally rejected.

Opposition MP Zviad Dzidziguri said the memorandum does not represent any concrete commitments from the government.

“They are talking only for the sake of talking. The government refuses to make [GPB head Tamar] Kintsurashvili and [CEC chair Levan] Tarkhnishvili resign and they have no real plans with political prisoners either,” he said.

However, Kintsurashvili confirmed the same day that she will resign as soon as parliament approves a new supervisory board, commenting, “I don’t want to be a reason for furthering political confrontation.”

Former MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, who worked on the election code and once was a nominee to the CEC chairmanship, is tipped to replace her.

Khmaladze said he has received no official invitation but that an opposition representative contacted him to ask if he would accept the post. “I answered that if both sides—opposition and government—agree I would not have any moral right to reject this,” Khmaladze told journalists yesterday.