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United and divided

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 6
The Georgian opposition is united in its demand to replace Saakashvili and his team through snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but is divided on how to achieve this goal. We can detect at least five different opposition camps, competing with each other to gain the leadership and attract as many supporters as possible.

Yesterday the deadline of the ultimatum delivered by the Alliance for Georgia to hold a referendum expired. As the President ignored the ultimatum the Alliance will now presumably start collecting signatures demanding a plebiscite, as it promised. This is the position of the Republicans, New Rights and Irakli Alasania’s team.

A considerable chunk of the non-Parliamentary opposition, the Conservatives, People’s Party, Nino Burjanadze (former Chair of Parliament), Salome Zourabichvili (former Foreign Minister), Irakli Okruashvili (former Minister of Defence) and their supporters, and also 2008 Presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, support the idea of starting continuous countrywide protest actions, though acting within constitutional limits, from April 9. This is the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy in which Soviet troops massacred 19 peaceful demonstrators, mainly women, in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi. Starting actions on that date is controversial as it might lead to violence, as the great mass of people the opposition hopes to attract would be difficult to control. Provocations cannot be excluded either. Conversely, how successful such protests will be will depend on how many people turn out.

This basic idea is supported by the Traditionalists (led by Chairman of the Supreme Council in the Gamsakhurdia period Akaki Asatiani), the Freedom Party (led by the son of President Gamsakhurdia Konstantine) and Women’s Party (led by former MP Guguli Maghradze), but they have a different approach to getting people out to protest. They want to organize a huge public convention in Tbilisi whose members will be asked if they want Saakashvili as President, whether they want snap elections and generally what kind of governance they would prefer, though what happens then has not been made clear.

The Labour Party says it will participate in the 9 April demonstrations but it claims to be the major opposition party, which has consistently opposed Saakashvili and the National Movement since 2003. It is therefore categorically against the “Misha 2 American Project,” which is what it calls the emergence of Irakli Alasania. Labour leader Shalva Natelashvili intends to join all protest actions on the precondition that they do not include Burjanadze, Noghaideli (a former PM) and Alasania, who have quite recently ‘jumped out of Saakashvili’s boat’.

The National Forum, which is a quite solid opposition body, is not planning to participate in the 9 April protests because they say there is no clear action plan behind them. As an alternative they suggest organizing special civil committees in the different parts of the country, thus creating protest supporting organizations on the ground. Zurab Noghaideli’s party is not going to participate in the April 9 events as he considers that the population is not asking for snap elections, though he remains in the opposition ranks.

There are also opposition representatives in Parliament who think that as part of the country is under Russian occupation this is not the time for a huge civil confrontation. So we have lost count - it looks like there are more than 5 positions in the opposition. One therefore has to express regret that neither the current administration nor the opposition is trying to conduct dialogue. The ruling majority has suggested certain forms of dialogue, but the opposition claims that they have cheated so many times that they cannot be trusted to behave appropriately any more.

Saakashvili and his team categorically reject the slightest possibility of holding any sort of new or preterm election. So sadly enough everything is moving towards confrontation, mass street actions which eventually create extra problems for the country. Both sides are leading each other into a dead end. The question arises? Does anybody in the country actually care for it?