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Society in standby mode

Wednesday, November 12
Today Georgia lives in the standby mode, chained by anticipation. Actually we have been like this since the Bolsheviks, waiting for the ultimate flowering of mankind, Communism. Now, however, we are waiting for things comparatively well-defined: peace, stability and democracy, which we hope will create the desired conditions in the country.

The August war created chaos in the country and great confusion in the population, which has not satisfactorily understood what happened and what is to come. It is waiting for further developments to reveal the meaning of what it has already seen. Such a mood was evident during the demonstrations on the first anniversary of November 7, 2007. People attended to see what would happen next, and give more meaning to what had happened on that day. There were not as many people as at last year’s protest rally but ‘enough thousands’ to create a headache for the ruling administration.

The opposition has three major demands: the return of Imedi TV to Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family, an issue presently the subject of a court case, the release of political prisoners, whom the authorities claim do not exist, and the holding of snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The opposition has also fixed deadlines by which these things should happen, November 23 for the first two and April 9, 2009 for the elections, with the precondition of prior emendation of the election law. These demands are consistent with those made last year. So was last November 7 the first manifestation of the ultimate overthrow of the present authorities, or was it just an unrepeatable footnote in history?

It is extremely difficult in the present situation to make prognoses of what will have happened by November 23, let alone five months from now. Currently the opposition is divided into several fragments: Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary, radical and constructive; some opposition groups have their own internal opposition. Groups permanently accuse each other of ‘collaboration’ with the authorities and fulfilling the administration’s orders. Some argue against any sort of public protest, saying that this plays into the hands of Russia. Which of these accusations is valid, or meaningful, will only become clear through the prism of history, though this will not effect who believes what, and acts upon it.

Despite the lost war the Georgian population is tolerant and does not put pressure on the administration, though it may well deserve it. Maybe as a result of well-staged PR, many people still think that things are not as grave as they are. Sociologist Iago Kachkachishvili comments in Mteli Kvira newspaper that the authorities have suggested several grand projects to the people. President Saakashvili has personally repeated several times that the country is closer to the restoration of its territorial integrity than ever before. Much is spoken about an 18 month rehabilitation programme, after which the resumption of high economic growth is inevitable. The unprecedentedly huge amount of financial support promised by donor countries and organizations is interpreted by the authorities as a guarantee that Russia will soon be internationally isolated. The Georgian leadership has managed to convince almost half the population that today there is a unique opportunity to unify the country. So the opposition has not much choice but to wait for the time being, and hope that a sense of disappointment takes root, and protest feelings start growing among the population.

The external enemy created the desire and necessity for consolidation around whoever the leader was. The failure of the opposition to produce a credible alternative leader has allowed the President to preserve his position. But everyone is still waiting and seeing, no binding conclusions have been come to. At any moment, sufficient numbers of people might believe that that one version or other is true, and stand by no longer.