The messenger logo

Spring of our discontent

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 5
Spring has come and everyone in Georgia is discussing possible developments inside and outside the country. State officials keep repeating that there will be no direct aggression from the Russians but they will try to destroy Georgia internally, thus hinting that any kind of protest initiated by the opposition should be understood as a pro Russian act. On the other hand, the protest mood in the population is pretty high, mainly due to the defeat in August, the Russian occupation of Georgian territories and the current financial crisis.

Different polls are being carried out which seek to identify how popular different political figures are, how efficient state institutions are, the mood of the population and so on. The GHN agency states that according to its polling most people agree that the opposition must act within the framework of the constitution to achieve its targets, but that it should try to displace the Government provided it does so in this way. 82% of respondents to GHN polls think thus, whereas 8% think the administration should be allowed to complete its legal term. 10% however think that both a referendum and 9 April protest actions are unacceptable because they will be ineffective. Only 21% of poll respondents support holding a referendum but 68% support direct protest actions of April 9. 11% donít support any of these options but have no alternative suggestion.

Interestingly most poll respondents expressed their concern about manipulation of a referendum. 79% of those asked said that if a referendum is held its results will be rigged in favour of the administration. Only 12% think that if it is held it will be conducted fairly and justly. 66% of those participating in the poll say that they are prepared to participate in a 9 April protest rally, 18% said that they would not. 15% however say that although they support the opposition demands they are not planning to participate in protest rallies. Among those who support the protest rallies, some 4% think that at minimum they will wake the authorities up. Most of the respondents expressed their opinion that a 9 April rally would be more radical than the November 2, 2007 protest.

Whatever a poll might say the reality is always different. The opposition faces many problems in mobilizing the population to participate in continuous actions. The major issue here is financial support. If Tbilisi residents can attend under their own steam protestors from different regions would need transport. They will not be able to travel to the capital without financial and logistical support, so even if propaganda or participation create a mood to protest there are visible difficulties for some of those wishing to come to Tbilisi.

There is another issue related to financial support. If the rallies do become continuous as the opposition promises, the people in the streets will need food and different types of medical assistance and facilities. Moreover since the major TV channels are pro-Government there are only two TV channels, Kavkasia and Maestro which will carry the opposition message. They can only transmit to Tbilisi however, so serious propaganda work needs to be done in the regions to mobilize the population. So far different opposition parties and groups have not made serious coordinated efforts in this direction, therefore the population is at a loss which slogan to follow and what to do to express their protest. Furthermore people have personal and family obligations and jobs to do. In the present economic climate nobody wants to abandon their workplace to participate in protests if it means losing his permanent job and income. Those involved in agriculture will also be busy with their everyday work.

The administration on its side is doing its best to convince people not to participate in protest rallies. They do this through socially-oriented programmes, creating temporary jobs, offering cheap insurance policies and so on. But today is the fifth of March, the day on which the ultimatum delivered by Irakli Alasania expires. It is exceedingly unlikely that today the President will bow to it and hold a referendum. April 9 is also fast approaching. Conflagration seems the only way out. As soon as it gets warmer things will immediately get hot.