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Alas, more confrontation?

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 27
The non-Parliamentary opposition has made its pitch – it will launch a high scale “attack” on the administration from spring onwards. This will mean continual protest actions, rallies, picketing and other legal forms of protest, at all of which one major demand will be made – President Saakashvili must resign.

This is the third time Georgian domestic politics has reached this point since the country regained its independence. First the people wanted the first President, Gamsakhurdia, to resign and finally ousted him in 1992 after a coup. Then Saakashvili himself organized a revolutionary assault against President Shevardnadze in 2003 and entered the Parliament building with his supporters, and though they were holding roses instead of guns Shevardnadze was also forced to resign.

Today … we don’t want the same scenario! But no one knows precisely how events will develop from here.

All sides keep repeating that everything should be done within the framework of the Constitution and Rule of Law and that there is a need for dialogue. Luckily until now the opposition has acted according to the Constitution but there is very little, almost no chance, of there being any dialogue. The opposition demand for Saakashvili’s resignation makes it impossible for the authorities to agree to one, but they themselves didn’t make much effort to talk to the opposition to prevent things reaching this boiling point. Only recently have they become more friendly and tolerant, but as the opposition has stated many times it is too late now.

Both sides have valid arguments. By making an inflexible demand the opposition has put itself in a corner it cannot escape from, think the administration’s supporters. They suggest that the slogan “Everything or Nothing” should become more modest and realistic so that dialogue can start. The opposition on its side says that the “resources for dialogue are exhausted” and considers negotiations useless. It maintains Saakashvili must go because the people do not want him any more, their argument then resting on how many people come out into the streets to say the same thing.

There is also another very important factor to consider – all the various opposition leaders are trying to attract public attention to themselves by offering different projects, each more sensational than the last, for getting rid of the current leadership. In fact the opposition are fighting among themselves as well as against the ruling party. This fact could be used by the authorities for their benefit. The only thing unifying the opposition is the demand for Saakashvili’s resignation, and asking any question about how this should be achieved or what happens next reveals immediate differences.

Knowing his character and personality, it is hard to predict that Saaksshvili will resign. He has said openly many times that he is going to remain President until his term expires in 2013. So what then? Will we see nothing but confrontation, street demonstrations and so on?

Much depends on how many people will demonstrate. If there are fewer protestors than before or during the Rose Revolution the administration will start saying the opposition is weak and will not retreat. But what if thousands and thousands of people come out into the streets and keep on coming?

It is more than unlikely that the administration would do what it did on 7 November 2007. This damaged Georgia’s image very seriously. Such a course of action would very negatively affect the aid Georgia receives and other issues of importance. This however leaves the administration with one obvious option. The Russian occupation and the possibility of a repeat aggression are currently being much exploited by the administration. Those who demand protests are labelled Russian supporters and a ‘fifth column.’ It must be very comforting for the administration to think that everyone who cares for Georgia must support the Government, but in no country are things as simple as that.

Hunting for “Russian oriented witches” is not a new way of fighting dissidents. Both ex-Presidents did the same and the current one has followed their lead. The opposition says that Saakashvili is the Russian stooge, reminding him that Georgian assets have been given/sold to Russian companies, most recently the Enguri Hydro Power station management rights. Neither side can conclusively prove they are right, but this makes the accusations ever louder, as they cannot be wholly disapproved either.

The gap increases…