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Some sense but little use in opposition hunger strikes

Wednesday, March 12

Perpetual protests keep the opposition on the 6 o’clock news, but turnout is sagging.

With a few dozen campaigners on hunger strike outside parliament, opposition coalition leaders have escalated their demands to a repeat presidential election, partially to appease more radical supporters who saw little point in agitating for piecemeal changes like reforming the public broadcaster’s administration.

But denouncing the country’s leaders as thieves and liars, as did Conservative Zviad Dzidziguri, and hastily declaring to-the-death hunger strikes for the vaguest of goals (free and fair parliamentary elections, the release of ‘political prisoners’) is out of step with most of the electorate.

It’s possible they have hit on a campaign stratagem moderately more sophisticated than the anti-government barnstorming of the presidential election.

Following the departure of the moderate Republicans from the coalition, it would make sense for the remaining eight-party bloc to draw a sharp contrast with their erstwhile comrades-in-arms, introducing more choices for the anti-government voters which could easily constitute a majority in the May elections.

Running as the opposition versus the government is, under current circumstances, less effective than running as the radical opposition and the moderate opposition against the government.

But even if this is the rationale for the opposition coalition’s bewildering decisions to hunger strike, there are still worries. The presidential election was long on blindingly acerbic personal attacks and short on everything else. That left voters with little reason to think the opposition will improve the country if they take power.

This is not because the opposition is wholly devoid of worthy policy proposals, but because there has been little opportunity—or effort—to present them. Coalition members' radical rhetoric, which flirts shamelessly with calling for another people-powered revolution, does little visible service to the country. Allowing more room for considered debate would.