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The unsure future of the United Opposition

Tuesday, June 17
After the Christian Democrats struck an agreement with the ruling party that will see them take up their seats in parliament, while a hardcore of other opposition MPs-elect have renounced their MP status—the eight-party United Opposition finds itself pondering the future.

The United Opposition, a hodgepodge of parties galvanized amidst the public outcry at the arrest of a former defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, last November, certainly knows how to play to a crowd.

Coalition leaders have made one dramatic gesture after another—whether it be organizing a hunger strike and a city of tents on Rustaveli avenue, or dramatically chopping up their temporary parliamentary ID cards with kitchen scissors on the steps of parliament.

While this certainly generates headlines, such tactics are growing tired. Street protests this year have often seen small turnouts. A small crowd in the wake of January’s presidential election could be put down to a particularly harsh winter, but as the weather has warmed it seems that many ordinary Georgians—passionate about politics though they may be—are simply weary of marching around the capital in rally after rally.

Davit Berdzenishvili, a member of the Republican Party which split from the coalition earlier this year, acknowledged that the opposition have made tactical errors over the past few months, in yesterday’s edition of Mteli Kvira.

In January, well coordinated pressure from the opposition could have elicited major concessions from a government that was weaker than ever, he reasons.

But following last month’s parliamentary elections, the opposition appears to have boxed itself in. Fiercely condemning the elections as rigged, but tempted to take up the few seats it has one, internecine struggling was inevitable.

The Christian Democrats’ memorandum, subsequent government talks, and resultant agreement has catalyzed the process—giving those opposition MPs who secretly desperately want to take up their parliamentary seats the excuse they’ve been waiting for.

Jondi Baghaturia, a former United Opposition member, summed it up best with his justification for entering parliament.

The boycott tactic is all well and good, he said, as long as everyone in the opposition takes part. And evidently not everyone is going to, so I might as well have my piece of the pie too.

But as of yesterday a total of 16 opposition MPs-elect—12 from the United Opposition, four from the Labor Party—have formally renounced their MP status.

If all this suggests, as political analyst Ramaz Klimiashvili says, that the coalition has been in one sense “defeated,” then it’s time for some serious consideration on how to proceed.

If the United Opposition wants to exist as a political force at all, it needs find new momentum. With street tactics losing the sheen they once had, and having ruled out taking up the fight on the inside, it may well find itself out in the cold. Just like its supporters did in January.