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Alliance asks the people to decide

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Friday, March 20
Asking just one question - “Do you agree that Georgia should hold snap elections in the near future” – on March 19 the Alliance for Georgia officially began conducting its nationwide plebiscite. Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting with Alliance supporters one of its leaders, Irakli Alasania, stated that the plebiscite will give Georgian citizens the chance to express their negative or positive opinion on the holding of snap elections and added that the Alliance will fight against the “authoritarian regime” by means of the plebiscite and all other constitutional methods. The results of the plebiscite will be announced on March 31.

Analyst in constitutional issues Vakhtang Khmaladze, a member of the Republican Party which is part of the Alliance for Georgia, explains that under the law a plebiscite, even if called by the President, has no power to force anyone to do anything, so this plebiscite will simply issue a recommendation. However he says that the plebiscite’s aim is to establish public opinion on a concrete issue. “The plebiscite has moral influence,” Khmaladze says.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that this plebiscite will not have any political force whatever result is produces, but will have influence. According to Sakvarelidze, if a reliable sociological study is conducted and makes clear that the rating of the Government is low this will at some point influence the authorities. “According to research, the high rating of Irakli Alasania greatly influenced the formation of this Alliance. Studies with no legal force nevertheless influence the political process. The plebiscite will also influence political forces,” Sakvarelidze said.

The Alliance for Georgia, consisting of the New Rights and Republican parties and former Georgian Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania’s team, was launched on February 23. Immediately after Alasania returned to Georgia he made some quite critical statements about the authorities and the President concerning the August war, claiming that through direct dialogue with the Abkhazian and South Ossetian separatists the conflict could have been avoided. The Georgian authorities have responded by expressed their wish to restore direct dialogue with the separatists and Russians but not at the expense of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Yesterday the Chairman of the Georgian Parliament Davit Bakradze again offered the Abkhaz and Ossetian people direct dialogue, without mediators. He voiced his proposal at a meeting with students at Ilia Chavchavadze State University. “The key word for Georgia is dialogue,” he said. “This is a dialogue within the country between political forces; a dialogue with the international community and a dialogue with those people, who live beyond the temporary dividing lines, on the territories occupied by Russia… We are ready – and not only ready but willing - to have direct dialogue with the people who live in the occupied territories, including representatives of the so-called authorities or administrations,” Bakradze stated, adding that such a dialogue requires “proper conditions” in which results will be achieved.

“Unfortunately, no such conditions exist in either Abkhazia or Tskhinvali because both regions are occupied by the Russian Federation and all the key decisions are made in the Kremlin instead of Sokhumi or Tskhinvali. So, the first essential condition for creating the necessary environment for a dialogue is to ensure that Russia meets its commitments,” Bakradze said. ”Despite the Georgia-Russia war, Georgia is prepared to resume relations with Russia, but not at the expense of its territorial integrity and state interests,” he added.

Russian politicians have welcomed Bakradze’s statement, calling it “full of common sense” but highlighting that the two countries of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are already recognised by Russia and it is not planning to withdraw this decision. Russia is happy for Georgia to hold dialogue with these entities but as equal partners, fellow ‘sovereign states.’

The Speaker of Parliament also responded to the Alliance’s plan to hold a plebiscite and stated that elections are the mechanism for changing the authorities of the country. “Anyone who wants to take power should take part in the elections. Local elections are appointed in 2010 and others will follow which they can participate in,” Bakradze said.