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And what comes next?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 11
The non–Parliamentary opposition has announced publicly that from April 9 it will hold mass protest rallies throughout the country which should result in the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili and snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Saakashvili however has several times declared that he does not intend to resign and will remain in post until his term expires in 2013.

So the confrontation we expected is here. The question is: how deep will it go? How will events develop?

The issue raises concern in Georgian society, the international community inside and outside the country and among politicians themselves. Much will depend on the number of people who present themselves outside Parliament on April 9. The non-Parliamentary opposition deliberately chose 9 April 2009 as the date of its first mass protests because it will be the 20th anniversary of the tragic day when the Soviet army massacred 19 peaceful demonstrators in front of the Parliament building. The opposition was not sure that enough people would come on a randomly-selected date, and this would have meant their collapse and failure. However 9 April is a date remembered by everybody and people commemorate the day, and its significance, each year.

No clear action plan has been drawn up or outlined by the parties participating in the 9 April protests. It is also known that not all the opposition parties intend to participate in these protest rallies. The Parliamentary opposition parties, though neither numerous or significant, are negative about them and even the non-Parliamentary ones are not unanimous that this is the way to go. The National Forum, a well-respected and supported party, is not participating and neither is the Alliance for Georgia, consisting of Irakli Alasania’s team, the New Rights and Republicans. Tina Khidasheli from the Republicans states, “We don’t know their plans. I have heard that there will be rallies on April 9 but that’s all.”

The leader of the Industrialists Party Zurab Tkemaladze is also concerned. His party will take part in the rallies on April 9 but he does not know what the next step will be. “Everything will depend on the public demand,” concludes Tkemaladze, hinting that everything will be decided by the number of people turning out to demonstrate. Political analysts however are quite skeptical.

A repetition of the November 7 scenario is more probable than a second Rose Revolution suggests political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili. Some think that if the number of people demonstrating is very impressive the administration will not use force, but others consider that Saakashvili will do this and there should be no illusions that he would not. But even if force is used nobody can predict what will happen next. It looks as if neither side is going to compromise its intransigent position.

“Let’s hope that the events of 1992 will not be repeated,” says Nino Burjanadze, an active supporter of the 9 April actions (in December-January 1991-1992 the opposition ousted President Gamsakhurdia from Tbilisi by force and more than 100 people were killed in the process). She adds that: “Saakashvili would not dare to use force because if he does try to lay a hand on peaceful demonstrators there is a well-known proverb: he who seeds the wind will harvest the hurricane.” However such a hope is not supported by solid material arguments. There is a great possibility that the people, or some provocateurs among them, could undertake revolutionary moves. There should be no illusions spun and irrational promises made.

Leader of the Parliamentary opposition Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze thinks it is dangerous to give false hope to the people who will come to the rally by telling them that 9 April is the last day of Saakashvili’s regime. If the people see that nothing happens after the speeches at the rally someone may try to take radical steps. “I’m sure that radical opposition leaders will do their best to prevent such developments but we should remember that when the temperature gets hot between two players a third one, an invisible player, emerges who is now quite visible in Georgia. I don’t want to speculate about conspiracy theories but I am talking about our responsibility. If the tension increases the chances are that something unpredictable will happen and there would be no possibility to control this,” Targamadze said. He is against a new revolution and says that nothing good resulted from public impatience with the Gamsakhurdia and Shevardnadze regimes. “We should deprive Saakashvili of his power bit by bit. By making revolutionary moves we will force him into a corner. His impulsive nature has many times been a great threat to the society,” thinks Targamadze.

Many politicians have openly condemned any possible revolution. “I don’t want a new revolution to bring a new chief. If anyone thinks it is possible to change the leader by force, I want to urge this, think twice before you act. What happened during Gamsakhurdia’s time was an error we have no right to repeat,” said Davit Gamkrelidze, the New Rights leader. These words created a scandal among opposition leaders, but Gamkrelidze is himself an opposition politician.

So, the question remains: what comes next?