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Amid dissent and contradictions, no clear tactic for opposition picket

By Mikheil Svanidze
Thursday, June 5
Opposition parties will picket the first session of parliament in an avowed effort to stop it from convening, but as dissent within their ranks grows, it is hard to see how they will meet with success.

Nor is it clear what form the picket will take.

Within the eight-party bloc called the United Opposition, suggestions of tactics on the day range from hectoring the unfortunate MPs-elect as they traipse into parliament to “arresting and prosecuting” the president in the “people’s court.”

Though most United Opposition leaders have taken pains to say the picket will be peaceful, it is clear that some in the fractious opposition bloc entertain more radical ideas.

“I call on the people to rebel against these authorities,” said People’s Party leader Koba Davitashvili last week on a late-night political talk show.

As of yesterday, opposition leaders were refraining from detailing their plans for the day parliament convenes.

“All I can tell you is that we will stay within the limits of the constitution,” said opposition MP-elect Davit Saganelidze.

“We have a number of plans, but we will make a decision on that day.”

Zviad Dzidziguri, a leading member of the coalition, told the Messenger he would not disclose their plans because their “opponents will take countermeasures.”

“You will see everything on the day of the first session,” he said.

The United Opposition won 17 seats in the new parliament, while the ruling National Movement is expected to hold 119, well above a constitutional majority in the 150-member parliament.

Of the other parties to win seats, only Shalva Natelashvili’s Labor says it will join the rally. Others have toed a more careful—and at times ambiguous—line.

The Republicans, which hold just two seats won through local voting in single-representative districts, said a picket of the first parliament session would give the government a pretext to launch an extensive crackdown on opposition leaders and parties.

Instead, its leader Davit Usupashvili said the opposition should acknowledge “temporary defeat” in last month’s elections and regroup to press ahead with new tactics.

The Christian Democrats, who are expected to hold six seats, have not clearly said whether they will join the rally or keep their MPs-elect out of any parliament sessions which follow. But party representative Levan Vepkhvadze suggested they share the Republicans’ dim view of the planned picket.

The opposition allege the ruling party won the May parliamentary elections through mass fraud and intimidation, and most vow to push for repeat elections.

The new parliament must convene by June 10, but the exact date has not been announced.