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No snap elections - ?

By Messenger Staff
Monday, December 15
There will be no snap elections, President Saakashvili announced publicly late last week. However he gave a commitment to amend the elections code, thus implying the original elections were in some way flawed.

The opposition welcomes the commitment to making amendments but insists on these being applied immediately through snap elections. The commitment actually makes the election timing more complicated, as nobody knows how long the amendment process will last or to want extent the ruling party is prepared to give up its ‘election code privileges.’ Snap elections will be kept off the agenda if amending the code is dragged out for the remaining terms of President and Parliament. There are no visible signs of an intention to start working on the amendments, a process which may legitimately take months or even years.

The administration seems to think that by the time all the election amendments are formulated and agreed agitation in the population will have calmed down, other problems might be attracting public attention, time will cure everything. The opposition thinks otherwise. Serious regroupings of opposition forces are taking place, something usually characteristic of the period just before elections, implying there is an unstoppable momentum for forcing elections which will make this longer view redundant.

The opposition is categorical in its demand for snap elections. However it has no united position on what kind of elections these should be. Presidential? Parliamentary? Or both? The latter is the option most often discussed, though as this has not encouraged the opposition to develop a unified stance on the question it is likely to remain merely discussion for now. The opposition is prepared to start mass street protests in spring if the country’s leadership refuses to follow the people’s will, but as they cannot decide exactly what sort of elections to demand, it may be difficult for them to express the people’s will rather than a muddle of factional views, something Georgians do not have a history of supporting.

Saakashvili’s statement did clear up the official position. He stated that the country cannot afford to spend thousands of GEL during a time of crisis(!?). “The Georgian leadership has never been afraid of elections” he added. But the opposition greeted the statement with furious indignation. It reminded Saakashvili of the millions of GEL spent needlessly on PR concerts, celebrations, the President’s residence, his personal jet, National Movement election campaigning, pseudo- defence contracts and many other items which had always been controversial. The opposition is sure that elections are not so expensive that they would put the country’s stability at risk.

The statement does not put the issue of early elections off the agenda. On the contrary, political confrontation might now become even more acute. It puts opposition in a position where the only alternative is to start street protests. Were these might lead is unpredictable. But one thing is predictable: the country will not benefit from them, and further complications will draw Georgia backwards, moving it away from NATO, EU and, alas, from the presently impossible dream of regaining its lost territories in the visible future.

Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze stated during his trip to the USA that a special group will be created at some point to draft amendments to the election code. He said that these changes have been planned for a while and have nothing to do with a call for snap elections. Former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze, now in opposition, thinks this promise should be fulfilled. She shares the opinion of the rest of the opposition that without the necessary corrections, elections are useless.

The Labour Party is distrustful of the amendment initiative, believing that the present administration is counting its last days and therefore trying to rescue itself by election code manipulation. However Mamuka Katsitadze from New Rights has stated that it is the international community which demands that the Georgian leadership amends the Code and carries out snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The New Rights and Republican coalition claims it has already elaborated draft amendments and plans to submit them to a general audience. If the Government is to believed it will be presenting its own draft to sit alongside these, which will probably differ in important respects from those drawn up by the opposition parties.

A hot winter is coming, regardless of the weather.