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Three demands of the opposition

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 3
The opposition is attempting to consolidate and find common goals to unite around as springtime approaches. What they currently agree on, as outlined in the declaration signed by a group of opposition parties last week, is three main points: Saakashvili’s resignation, the holding of snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections and the improvement of election conditions.

When these demands were presented the reaction was immediate: there would be no resignation, no snap elections of any kind. As for amendments to the Election Code, why not? However the opposition is unlikely to be satisfied with only one-third of its demands being met, and will doubtless continue to press for the complete capitulation of the authorities.

The question therefore arises: what then? How would the opposition conduct itself under these circumstances? Would it use its usual methods and organise street protests? Will the people follow the opposition?

The initiative of drawing up the new unity document belongs to Salome Zourabishvili, leader of Georgia’s Way and a former Foreign Minster. It was supported by the New Rights and Republicans and some other parties. “The joint document had to identify the demands which would not cause controversies and arguments between us,” think the New Rights. The abovementioned three demands are concurred with by the whole opposition spectrum. However the fourth demand outlined in Zourabishvili’s original initiative, that opposition parties declare a moratorium on criticizing each other, was not accepted by all the parties who wanted to sign the declaration. Instead they will seek to create a kind of code of ethics on this subject, which would presumably be framed by the things some parties still want to criticize others for doing, whatever these may be.

The declaration, entitled Georgia Without Saakashvili, gives its views as to why the demands it makes have become necessary. However not all the opposition parties have been prepared to sign the document yet. Zurab Noghaideli’s Movement for Fair Georgia thinks there has been no clear call from the population to hold the snap elections thus far. The National Forum wants to know how the opposition intends to force Saakashvili to resign. The Christian Democrats consider that they are more useful in Parliament, where they can apply the necessary pressure while working on Election Code amendments, and that by signing the document they will put themselves offside.

Labour leader Shalva Natelashvili approves of the document but is refraining from actually signing it as he has stated that the rest of the opposition should join in with his party, which he says advocated these things long before the others did, rather than Labour join the others. New Rights leader David Gamkrelidze says that those who do not sign the document will be considered part of the ruling force’s team. In effect therefore the document will do much to decide who leads the opposition before it begins to affect who is actually running the country. It will be interesting to see how much energy is devoted to each of these two aims, and whether one will get in the way of the other.

Though there are still some discrepancies between the positions of the various parties the unity document accurately reflects the main thrust of opposition ideas. Its demands are quite radical, but past experience, of the Rose Revolution and afterwards, has shown that people are keen to unite under radical slogans. Where could this lead the country? No one can tell at present, but it will be an interesting journey.