“We don’t live under a normal regime” - Burjanadze
By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, February 9
Her everyday life is busy…meetings, visits, interviews … her telephone is permanently ringing throughout our interview but she has not answered any of the calls except one from the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia calling from Germany… “Thank God he is all right, he asked me to pray for him,” she told us.
The Messenger has interviewed the two time Acting President of Georgia, former Chair of Parliament, leader of the newly-founded Democratic Movement for United Georgia and a leading potential candidate for the next Presidential elections, Nino Burjanadze.
Q: One of the major demands of the opposition is the President’s resignation. What is your opinion on this and how should it be accomplished?
A: I have already stated several times that, in order for the country to survive and to prevent the crisis getting deeper, I think snap elections in Georgia are necessary and should happen as soon as possible, maybe in spring. The longer the current President stays in power and the longer the country remains in its current condition, the worse it will be for the country and the crisis will just get deeper.
In such conditions as were created after the war, any normal Government would have called a snap election, any President with a sense of responsibility would have resigned voluntarily, but as we don’t live under a normal regime we have to talk about forcing a resignation within the framework of the constitution. Through a bitter political struggle we should made the authorities hold snap elections. This is absolutely necessary.
I don’t exclude that it will be necessary to hold rallies but I hope the Government will make a proper decision without protest rallies. Protest rallies can be avoided through the opposition’s coordinated activity, a joint struggle. When there is serious political crisis in the country, if the opposition acts together it will be impossible for the Government to shut its eyes.
The Government has to recognize that there is a political crisis in the country. It was not recognizing this a year ago during the November (2007) events. Then I was suggesting that the President speak to the people even if they just whistle at him, they are our people and we should speak to them. They assured me that there was no political crisis and I was panicking, however after 4-5 days the President resigned.
Q: Another problematic issue is the election code. What would you do if suddenly the President decides to hold Parliamentary elections?
A: I am categorically against holding Parliamentary elections, because I am absolutely sure they will result in us having the same kind of Parliament we have today, either with a controlled opposition or one which does not have a meaningful voting strength. A Parliamentary election will prolong the President’s term and nothing else. As for Presidential elections, there are some articles in the election code which should be improved and we have our suggestions regarding this issue. The improvement of several regulations is possible if there is political will. I can say however that if we reach our goal and the President resigns and early elections are held, they will be held normally even under the present election code, if all opposition parties defend certain principles and respect each vote gained by the candidates.
Q: What do you think about an alliance with other opposition parties, if we take into account that some of opposition members’ attitude towards you is not positive.
A: Some opposition parties often make critical statements about Nino Burjanadze. I can give an example: during my time as Acting President, opposition members leaving my office at 5 a.m. in the morning were saying in interviews that they had not seen Burjanadze in two weeks and not talked to her. This is not unusual in politics.
After the war the first thing I did, before founding my own party, was invite opposition leaders, Mr. Davit Gamkrelidze, Mr. Davit Usupashvili and Mr. Levan Gachechiladze, to meet me to talk about a joint plan. After this I had meetings not only with them but also other leaders. My opinion is that in spite of my positive or negative attitude towards certain politicians we should work together to force early elections. I think that this is not the time for us to criticize each other, not because I am afraid of criticism, I am always ready to answer any kind of question, but because we should now do the maximum to coordinate our efforts in order to oblige the authorities to call early Presidential elections. I will be the first on the day of the elections to say “ask me any question,” but I will not do so before then, because this would weaken the opposition.
The first step was taken when Mrs. Salome Zourabichvili gathered the opposition forces together and we signed the memorandum demanding early Presidential elections and then Parliamentary ones. Now we should make this happen.
Q: Will you participate in Presidential elections?
A: Firstly, we should reach the goal of forcing early elections, and after this I will decide whether to take part in the elections. I’ll also say however that serious people have founded this party and in very little time opened offices and gained supporters in different regions, and it is safe to assume that supporters of this party want to see its various candidates win. But the last word always lies with the people, and I hope that this tradition will be kept when the people elect their leader, and that we will not therefore have such a shameful Government and President as we have today.
Q: Does your party have concrete plans and programmes for getting into power?
A: Yes. We are serious people in this party, people either like us or not but no one can say that there are frivolous people in this party. We have many competent people in the party and are working on a serious programme. Our finalized manifesto will be presented in a few weeks. We have very concrete opinions on what kind of country Georgia should not be – we should not have a Georgia where the President has unlimited power and balances do not exist. We think business should be free and businessmen should not be afraid, and we should not have a tax system which harms business. There should be a payment system that stimulates business.
It is very important to create jobs, but not the sort our authorities create, which last for three months and then send the person back to unemployment. It is possible to create a few stable jobs which will provide income for a person.
We have our point of view regarding Western partners and Russia… it is absolutely unacceptable that the Government does not talk to Russia. How is it possible for a normal country not to talk to a neighbouring country? Despite the tension, dialogue should by all means exist.
Q: Recently you paid a visit to Davos, where world leaders gathered. What is their attitude to our country and its leadership?
A: It was very interesting to be invited to Davos, where I had the opportunity to participate in important negotiations and events. There were important political figures present in Davos, and I can tell you that skepticism regarding our authorities is very great - no one believes in the President of Georgia. It is obvious that various countries and world leaders will not break off relations with our country, because they are friends of the country itself and its people. They help our people and I am very grateful for this, but there are countries and people who say that they don’t see a reason to discuss anything serious with this Government. If we don’t act properly this skepticism will spread towards our country and people also.