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Battle of nerves

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 20
20 days are left until April 9, when the protest actions promised by the opposition will start, and no signs of dialogue are visible. At his peak Saakashvili mocked and ignored the opposition. Now the latter demands his unconditional resignation, although he says he will complete his legal term which expires in 2013.

Both authorities and opposition are waiting anxiously to see how many people will turn out in central Tbilisi on April 9. The number of the initial protestors might prove decisive for the further developments of events.

The Saakashvili administration seems aware of the reality confronting it and has started selling itself door to door. Saakashvili himself goes from one region of Georgia to another, meeting people and trying to convince them how much he and his team care for them, promising serious economic advancements by 2013 and explaining that the August Russian aggression and severe global economic crises are the reason things are not better. Moreover, he continually repeats that in Georgia the economic situation is better than in many other countries. The conclusion he wants us to draw is that any kind of mass protest action or destabilization would damage the country and its people. The opposition however argues that the President himself is the source of this instability and that it will remain for as long as he does.

Nobody should doubt that instability harms the state. The stake on the table now is the country’s image and perhaps even its statehood.

Unfortunately whatever the results of the April 9 manifestations Georgia will end up the loser. If Saakashvili resigns, though there is little probability of this, the country will be labeled as unstable as it could not wait until the legal end of the President’s term before replacing him. If he stays in power and takes punitive action against his opponents, and there are casualties, this would ruin the country’s image and its claims to comply with the standards of the civilized world will seem ridiculous. The solution to this problem is dialogue and both sides making concessions. But both sides need to be open and honest in their dealings and genuinely committed to their promises.

The purpose of the activities of the President and his team is clear. They want to discourage the population from participating in the protest rallies. The opposition on its side staged a dress rehearsal on March 13 when it organised a protest concert by Utsnobi (Unknown), the poet, pop singer and public figure Gia Gachechiladze, down the hill from the President’s residence, at Rique. Several thousand attended, not only teenagers but adults with their families. The April 9 action promises to draw greater numbers.

Currently the media speculates about preventative arrests and possible brutal conduct by the law enforcement bodies, although the authorities keep repeating that they will behave according to the law. Who will be carrying the Criminal Code and Constitution to show people how to act accordingly if chaos emerges? There have already been instances of intimidation and arrests, as the opposition claims, and it can be readily observed that the worse the authorities in any country behave, the more they quote the constitution to justify it, meaning assurances of constitutional conduct do not serve as a guarantee for the Georgian people.

Russian involvement is not excluded either. They will not send tanks from Akhalgori but make subversive provocations. Media News has stated, based on information from former intelligence officer Vladimir Volodin, that Moscow is preparing a special group of people who will provoke bloodshed in Tbilisi. The opposition suggests that this is a deliberate misinformation “leak” by Russia designed to support (!) Saakashvili, but who can be entirely sure? The battle of nerves is underway.