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Opposition shows more signs of being ready for dialogue

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, April 30
The “radical” opposition leaders say they have never refused to hold dialogue with the Georgian Government and are ready to meet President Saakashvili face to face in public. After their meeting with Georgian political analysts and representatives of civil society at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel on April 29, the opposition leaders said that there is a mood for dialogue in some part of society, but their demand for President Saakashvili’s resignation remains unchanged.

David Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party which is now part of the Alliance for Georgia, said a special council should be created. According to Gamkrelidze, the council will be composed of opposition and civil society representatives and will start a dialogue with the Government. “The council will include those who are ready for dialogue. The opposition will not prevent these people from starting negotiations,” Gamkrelidze said. He added that he personally, and the whole opposition, believe the only way out of the crisis is Saakashvili’s resignation, but noted that they are ready to “listen to the other side as well.”

The leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, also reiterated after the four hour meeting that Saakashvili’s resignation is still top of the agenda. However Alasania said that there is a possibility to start negotiations with the authorities. He said that the credibility of the ruling administration is very low and suggested that it should resolve some of the most problematic issues in order to regain the trust of the Georgian population at some level. He said the lack of media freedom and the investigation of about 80 cases of assaults on opposition activists were among the issues to be solved by the authorities.

Former Parliament Speaker and current leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze noted that all opposition leaders agree that Saakashvili should resign, however there are some differences “in strategy and tactics.” Burjanadze said the resources for dialogue have already run dry and there is only one issue that can be discussed – the resignation of the President. “If some people have found a way to enter into dialogue, they can do that, we will not deter them,” Burjanadze noted.

“Let them tell us the date and place of the meeting and we will go to that meeting,” former Presidential candidate and one of the leaders of the opposition, Levan Gachechiladze, added. “We will not change our demand, but I have no right and no wish to prevent anyone from meeting Saakashvili.”

Meanwhile the Georgian President has said that a “necessary process of cleaning the political machinery” is going in Georgia. He said that those forces, which have the ability to go to the next level of Georgian politics will take this chance. Saakashvili said that what is going on in Rustaveli Avenue is not a model of classical democracy and “does not happen in practically any country.” Speaking in the Georgian town of Rustavi on April 29, Saakashvili noted that the Georgian Government and state structures are not weak. “The reaction of the Government is not weak, it is taking a strong position, in order to give the opportunity to even the smallest groups to express their point of view,” the President added.

Some political analysts suggested after the meeting with the opposition that dialogue was very important and has no alternative in the current situation. Political commentator Soso Tsiskarishvili noted that changing an administration is a time-consuming process in which certain procedures need to be followed. “Changing a government is a long process, which has its logical chain of actions, and I think that any kinds of precipitate actions designed to change the Government would be more harmful than not changing the Government at all,” he said.

The representatives of society who attended the meeting also stressed that the political crisis in Georgia should be resolved through dialogue. Artist Nikusha Shengelaia said he was in favour of a meeting between the opposition and Government, at which representatives of the EU and some people trusted by the population should also be present. “In every civilized country a political crisis is solved with snap elections, however in this case the Government has very low public trust and consequently there is no guarantee that the elections will be fair. The only way to discharge the protest without any danger for the country is to start negotiations,” Shengelaia suggested. “The opposition and society should jointly force the Government to take specific steps towards dialogue and making some specific changes,” writer Lasha Bughadze said after the meeting.

The leaders of the opposition said that meeting representatives of different fields of society is very important and helpful. The opposition says meetings will next be held with Georgian media representatives.