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Elections? Maybe

By Messenger staff
Friday, December 5
Georgia’s foreign relations are more or less defined now. No MAP, but some “alternative mechanism.” Russia stays firmly in its conquered lands. The joke goes: one man beats another who pleads for mercy. Someone looks out of the window and says: “I am deeply concerned. You are using disproportional force. I wonder who started this? Here is a bandage.” Then he closes the window quickly to save energy.

The population, however, is getting ready for winter and New Year and speculates more often about possible snap Parliamentary elections. The opposition and analysts however consider this a possibility only after amendments are introduced into the election code, to enable future elections to be more democratic, and no one knows when or if this will occur.

The Georgian political spectrum is currently in the process of regrouping. The Republicans and New Rights have created a bloc. Former PM Zurab Noghaideli and former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze have established their own parties. Usually such a fuss happens only before the elections, but Government representatives don’t intend to hold elections in the foreseeable future. The opposition is ready to start a wave of street protests demanding elections, but this does not mean there will be any. Most probably Saakashvili will announce snap elections at the time when it seems to be the only way for him to rescue his position, and the country from the deep crisis both are clearly in.

Today Parliament consists almost entirely of members of the National Movement majority who can make any constitutional amendments they like without problem. This is a very comfortable situation for them. But Parliament does not reflect the real balance of political forces in the country. It has little chance of surviving until the end of its term because it will become increasingly irrelevant to actual political debate in the country. .

We think a new election inevitable for several reasons. After the lost war the current administration feels rather unstable. In the event of serious street protests it won’t be able to repeat what it did on November 7, 2007, when a peacefully protesting crowd was violently dispersed by riot police, using rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and clubs. Nobody would support this now, either inside or outside the country. It would be much more fruitful to take a step in the direction of the opposition and thus of the population. The country will benefit from this.

Another reason is a Western demand. It says, no help without democracy. No NATO without democracy. These messages have been clearly conveyed to the Georgian leadership. In fact the deficit of democracy in the decision making process has brought the country to this crisis. The West is categorically against any type of revolutionary developments and insists on changes being achieved through elections. Ironically this will buy a certain amount of time for the present administration, which may hope to stifle protest before organising a poll, but how much time it buys will depend on the patience of the West, which can be as unpredictable as Russia in this respect, as many sudden changes of attitude towards administrations the world over testify.

On September 17 President Saakashvili publicly promised a new wave of democratic reforms. We will judge his level of commitment to the promised changes by how promptly and effectively relevant changes will be introduced in the election code.

We take no notice of card tricks now. Only he who plays the game fairly will win now. The Government no longer holds all the cards, and those it has will have to be put on the table sooner or later.