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Different evaluations

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 16
President Saakaasvili’s recent speech in Parliament has been variously evaluated by different parts of the political spectrum of the country. The ruling party was totally happy with the speech, the Parliamentary opposition was critical and asked several questions, the non-Parliamentary opposition criticized both majority and opposition.

Just before the President arrived in Parliament no one was sure whether he would stay after his speech to listen to opponents and participate in debates. President Shevardnadze did that, Saakashvili did it once in his first year in office but did not like the criticism he heard and has not stayed to debate his speech subsequently. This time he highlighted at the very beginning: “Though the law does not oblige me to do so, I intend to stay after my speech and participate in Parliamentary debates.”

This was a good step, in compliance with the new wave of democracy proclaimed by Saakashvili himself right after the Russian invasion. The opposition labelled it a PR stunt but whatever the motivation behind it this was a positive and democratic move. The President listened to everyone and answered their questions. He himself assessed the session highly: “These were the best quality parliamentary debates I have seen and can remember,” Saakashvili said.

Analysts observed that this time the President was very correct, rather than cynical, in his remarks about the opposition. He can be if he wants to! However, some analysts think that both the questions and answers were staged and negotiated about prior to the event. The fact that neither the majority nor the opposition, or the President himself, paid due attention to the issue of the lost territories, gave some grounds to assume that a deal was done, thinks Soso Tsiskarishvili. Very similar doubts are expressed by Gia Khukhashvili.

The Parliamentary opposition objects to such an interpretation of its activities. “Every intervention by opposition members was acute and critical,” says opposition MP Guram Chakhvadze. Ruling party members are positive about the speech and the debates. “There is nothing critical that can be said about the President’s speech or his initiatives” thinks MP Goka Gabashvili. MP Givi Targamadze goes further and states that the opposition did not listen to the President as it read out pre-prepared questions and did not respond to his actual speech.

The President touched upon the hottest issue of current domestic policy: elections and his possible resignation. Saakashvili calmed down his supporters and caused a certain agitation in the opposition by announcing that he intended to remain in his post until his term expires in 2013, challenging his opponents to try their luck afterwards in the Presidential elections. Despite the President’s visible confidence that he will stay, the opposition assures the population that Saakashvili will resign. However it does not quote any concrete or realistic basis for this statement, whereas the Constitution provides the President with one.

The President makes socially-oriented promises to try to convince the people to back him. Maybe he can actually fulfill these promises, although the opposition doubts it. Most probably this task will be too difficult to achieve and the opposition is waiting for the momentum for change this will bring, assuming this will sweep it to victory. However there is one element missing in the calculations of either side: the people. Both sides are fond of telling people what they should think, but not asking them. Once again the people are being treated as rabbits, objects to be experimented with, rather than people, with things to contribute to their own country.