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Georgian opposition plans protest rallies on November 7

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, October 22
The Georgian opposition is planning a new wave of protest rallies starting on November 7, a year after the mass demonstration outside Parliament was dispersed by riot police. The opposition will declare November 7 ‘Fight Against Violence Day’ and ‘National Consolidation Day,’ it says.

“Saakashvili should answer for every action with which he has harmed Georgia and for the blood that was shed in August,” leader of the Joint Opposition and former Presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze said at a special press conference outside Parliament on Monday. Although Levan Gachechiladze said the major demand of the protest rallies would be the resignation of the President, other initiators were less confrontational, with Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party saying that the democratization of Georgia, including reform of the election code and the freeing of the broadcast media, was his main demand. Kukava said he did not want a “radicalization of events,” adding that, “we should be realists and not stick to emotional demands.”

The Parliamentary opposition is still hesitant about taking part in the protest rallies. Some Parliamentary minority members cited the current situation in the country as a reason for not participating in the opposition demonstrations. “As things remain tense, protest rallies, I think, will only aid the plans of Putin and Medvedev,” a former member of the Joint Opposition, MP Gia Tortladze, said. Magda Anikashvili, Christian Democrat MP and former anchor of Imedi TV, which was shut down following the November 7 events, said they are still negotiating about possible participation in the rally. “We have some ideas, but have not made a final decision,” Anikashvili said. “November 7 is associated with Imedi for us, so probably we will organize something related to Imedi, but we have not made up our minds yet,” she added.

The Georgian Government has the same opinion as Gia Tortladze, saying “it is not the right time to hold the protest rallies.” MP Koba Subeliani from the ruling National Movement said that Georgia needs unity most of all at the moment, in order to resist “bloody Russia” as he called it. Speaking to The Messenger, Subeliani said “I don’t agree with the demand for the President’s resignation. I think after all the difficulties that the Georgian Government has resisted, it needs support, not protest. I am proud that everyone in the Government, including me and my family, stayed in Georgia in its most difficult time and did not run away,” Subeliani said.

Analysts suggest that the rally planned for November 7 is a way to channel the objections to the situation in the country that have been accumulating since the August events. Political commentator Ramaz Sakvarelidze said the latest actions of the Government are the reason for the anger among the people. “The Government has not apologized for the events of August, moreover, It has declared that Georgia won the war. There are people in Georgia who do not believe that the lost war was a victory, that’s why the protest has emerged,” Sakvarelidze stated. However, he considers that fewer people will go out to protest against the Government this time. “There are a lot of factors that will prevent people protesting. Firstly, a quarter of Tbilisi residents believe we won the war, and will not protest against the current Government. Some people are politically passive and don’t participate in any kind of protest rallies, some are disappointed that the last mass protests did not bring the desired results. And there are also people who are afraid to face tear gas and batons once more. All these factors make me think that we will see fewer people in Rustaveli Avenue on November 7 than we did last year,” Sakvarelidze said.

The analyst is also skeptical about the results the protest rally can achieve. “The opposition has not offered society anything new, they just tell people “let’s protest once more, and one day it will bring us some positive results.” I don’t think the protest rallies will be followed by any kind of change, unless the Government makes some unplanned move, just like it did a year ago. Otherwise, the people will express their protest and that is it, nothing will happen,” Sakvarelidze noted.