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Do Georgians trust their politicians?

Tuesday, October 7
The Russian aggression has considerably changed the geopolitical reality in the South Caucasus and most probably around the world. Of course it has affected Georgia’s future prospects as a sovereign country. Accordingly it has influenced the general mood of the nation and our attitudes towards each other and our political figures.

The time is slowly approaching when we will need to start evaluating the tendencies emerging in our society, our likes and dislikes, our concerns and hopes and so on. However everything we are thinking should be put on the table openly, transparently, justly and honestly. We would undertake this exercise in order to cure ourselves of any illnesses and develop a common and healthy future. To give a correct diagnosis the doctor has to have a clear picture of the problem, or treatment will be useless.

Before we address more general tendencies, there is one particular question we need to ask. What will be the role of the population in the confrontation between the ruling forces and the opposition which sooner or later will come to the surface?

The August war and its results are interpreted differently by the authorities and the opposition, in particular the non-Parliamentary opposition. The Parliamentary opposition is more loyal to the majority and often cooperates with it. The non-Parliamentary version is asking many awkward questions which are not being answered properly as of yet. An example is the 43 questions asked by former Chair of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze, which have not so far been answered. These are not only about war issues but the “new wave of democratization” loudly proclaimed by President Saakashvili, a major concern of the opposition, because it insists that under the current circumstances the country’s leadership should go for good. The authorities for their part continue as if nothing much has happened and the aggression had been successfully withstood. They are acting as if nothing much should change in either the country’s internal or foreign policy.

Unfortunately the public opinion polling system has proven to be flawed in Georgia. Either the results have been manipulated according to orders/pressure/payment or people who do not want to participate in this fraud have just refused to take part. Therefore we cannot draw conclusions about what people think from such polls as happens in other countries. What we can say from observation however is that the Rose Revolution and the administration it brought to power promised democracy, but there is a general frustration that hope has not been matched by reality. The language generally used about the previous administration, now discredited internationally as well as domestically, is being used about this one with increasing frequency.

The August war, such a dramatic event that it forced people to think about what might be wrong with the country’s politics for such a thing to happen, has reaffirmed the general tendency to think negatively of the present administration. But today all political sides in Georgia are discredited. People criticize all the parties. The same old politicians spouting the same speeches have become boring. From time to time they get together or divorce, for no apparent reason and to no apparent effect either way. The arguments they use to defame each other are old and obsolete. The non-Parliamentary opposition is airing the idea of possible mass protest rallies later this year. The protests in November last year considerably damaged Georgia’s democratic image, but did not gain any visible advantage for the opposition as its once great support quickly dissipated. Will the opposition have serious public support this time and be able to maintain it?

“Why should I trust Burjanadze, she was the Rose Revolution leader with Misha and Okruashvili and the others, and Gachechiladze was also there and the Republicans…we need somebody new who had no dirt on his hands. The old ones fight because they argue about dividing the country’s wealth between themselves,” thinks Gaioz, a local plumber. He is not alone. The general frustration is creating the feeling that nobody cares about Georgia, everybody is simply promoting their own interests. This view is understandable and accepted everywhere. It suggests that the standoff between administration and opposition will be nothing to do with public opinion. It remains to be seen if an internal struggle between politicians who enjoy little public support will bring any practical benefits to that public.

The administration uses its propaganda machine to try and brainwash the masses that everything is well. Just yesterday the “popular” fortune teller Lela Kakulia said on Rustavi 2 TV that Georgia will be a flourishing country of 30 million people in just three centuries! How about that? It must be wonderful to have such gifts of foresight when they happen to coincide with what the Government of Georgia would like its population to hear.

Public moods are controversial, changing swiftly and difficult to foresee. One thing that might be hoped for, however, is that all sides will find ways to resolve Georgia’s problems through dialogue and concession, for the benefit of the country as a whole. Is this too much to ask in what foreign observers insist on calling a “young democracy?”