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Five rosy years

By Messenger staff
Monday, November 24
Georgia greeted the fifth anniversary of Rose Revolution in difficult conditions. Five years is not a long time in the broad sweep of history, but it is for an ordinary citizen who has lived and experienced these five years.

Everything that happens in Georgia changes the framework within which to assess this period. Whatever the country has achieved until now, it is without question that the August war is the key to evaluating what has been done in the country since November 23, 2003, as it forced the country to examine the state it was in.

The media was not in a triumphalist mood on November 23. Even the President was unusually subdued during his TV appearance the day before. This is not surprising when you take into account how many of the architects of the Revolution are now in opposition. Former Chair of Parliament Nino Burjanadze has now established a new opposition party, interestingly on the anniversary of the Revolution itself. Former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili is in France in exile. Many former leading members of the National Movement or its allies, including Koba Davitashvili, Zviad Dzidziguri, Levan and David Berdzenishvili, former Minister Goga Khaindrava and even Erosi Kitsmarishvili, the last Georgian Ambassador to Russia and owner of the Rose Revolution’s propaganda machine Rustavi 2 TV, are now firmly in the opposition ranks. Maybe someone can calculate who is left and who is now gone from the initial group of Rose revolutionaries. The results could be interesting.

Many of these people speak of mistakes they have made and indirectly try to publicly repent of them. But today the people of Georgia are angry, frustrated and at a loss. It was different five years ago. The country was optimistic and the people were motivated. They went out into the streets, and later into the Parliament building, to get rid of Shevardnadze who had been Georgia’s leader for most of the last 31 years, as a Communist in the seventies and eighties and as Head of State after the country regained its independence. The population put its trust and hope in the Rose Administration, and it demonstrably has neither hope nor trust in the same individuals any longer.

In 2005 the ruling party published a small booklet enumerating 16 achievements of the Rose Revolution. It quoted increases in the budget, pensions, wages, roads and infrastructure, an improved business environment, an improved international image, the building up of the armed forces and some other elements which were rather impressive at first glance. But such a brochure was never published again. Something went wrong. The achievements were visibly overlapped by the shortcomings of the administration. The abuse of human rights and private property rights, pressure on the media, the lack of an independent court system, the adjustment of the election code to serve the interests of the ruling party, these are some of the many issues which are more widely discussed in conversation by ordinary Georgians than any virtues of the administration.

The lost war and territories is the number one issue for an ordinary Georgian, who is very tolerant and loyal generally, but has reached his or her limit. The administration tries to create a certain feeling of optimism by suggesting there will be beneficial long term projects supported by the international community as a result of the support the county received during the war. A certain fortune teller, often advertised on TV, promises a prosperous Georgia in the 24th century (!). But people have to be pragmatic, they live today. Despite the efforts of the Government, frustration and disappointment visibly increases in the population.

The Georgian leadership was mute about its achievements on its fifth anniversary of power. Rose Revolution leader Nino Burjanadze has openly declared the losses the country really suffered in the August war and demanded that the present leadership and the President are held legally responsible for them. National Movement founder Rezo Shavishvili has accused the country’s leadership of ruining Georgia’s statehood as such. We are in a very different country to even one year ago, and time will tell how long the regime can survive when it can no longer even celebrate its own achievements in office.

The unity of the people, taken for granted five years ago, is now speculated about, hoped for. The question is what would create such unity, and what the demands of a united country would be. It is unrealistic, but the crowds who gather to protest might even ask for the resurrection of Shevardnadze, who did not sign any official document declaring his resignation, delivering it only verbally – the old White Fox!