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Administration suggests reforms

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 4
The protest rallies which started on April 9 have now entered their fourth week. Although the possibility of dialogue is being much speculated about, so far no concrete steps towards this are being taken by the conflicting sides. The topic of such dialogue is the sticking point: the opposition will only discuss the resignation of the President, whereas the authorities will talk about anything except this. It looks as if dialogue has very little chance of taking place if the sides won’t make some concessions to each other.

Meanwhile the administration is suggesting various modes of cooperation. Now it is suggesting that the non-Parliamentary opposition should cooperate in discussing possible reforms. Precisely what kind of reforms these are the authorities do not specify. However on May 1 Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze stated that the administration is planning in the near future to start implementing very serious institutional, systemic and political reforms. “In the coming days we will start making very serious institutional and political reforms in the country together with that part of the opposition which is willing to be part of this process,” Bakradze stated, adding that if opposition leaders really want dialogue and this is not just words they should decide in the next few days whether they want to participate in these reforms, which are important for the country.

At a meeting with Georgian scholars, the Parliament Chairman said that politicians should learn to manage conflicts through dialogue and also take responsibility for doing so. He said the Government’s opponents still prefer to speak in ultimatums, demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation, which he said was not helpful. “It is welcome that the word ‘dialogue’ has appeared in the vocabulary of the opposition, although it is a pity that behind this word stands the same ultimatum, which means that this is not an offer of genuine dialogue,” he said.

However by stating this through Bakradze the ruling authorities have indirectly admitted that serious shortcomings exist in the country, since they acknowledge that radical reforms are needed. This raises a question: if the authorities admit that reforms are needed, why do they not start implementing them themselves? They know perfectly well what the opposition opinion is on every single thing. Therefore they can start implementing reforms on their own, thus showing their goodwill and desire for reconciliation. But so far the authorities have limited themselves to declaring a ‘willingness to cooperate.’

Bakradze thinks that by suggesting dialogue whilst retaining its ultimatum about Saakashvili resigning the opposition is not genuinely interested in dialogue. The opposition however accuse the authorities of delivering a veiled ultimatum to them. The Government has decided to make certain reforms and is giving to the opposition just few days to make up its mind on whether they wish to be part of the process. Moreover some opposition leaders do not accept Bakradze’s tone and implications. “The opposition will start making institutional reforms as soon as Saakashvili resigns,” says Salome Zourabichvili, adding that the conflict will be resolved by Saakashvili’s resignation and the holding of free elections. Institutional reforms should start when Saakashvili goes as the way will then be open for doing this. Nobody trusts this leadership, thinks Zourabichvili.

Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Gigi Tsereteli has hinted at the possible institutional reforms in the mind of the authorities. These might be the introduction of a Parliamentary Republic or the forming of a coalition Government. Tsereteli has said that in a Parliamentary republic Parliament chooses the leadership of the country from among its members and proposes and elects the President. The leader of the majority thus becomes the head of the Government. However Tsereteli qualifies this by saying that this model needs to be very well thought through and analyzed, and he does not specify when this change should been implemented, after President Saakashvili’s term expires in 2013 or before. Opposition leader Zviad Dzidziguri thinks that Saakashvili himself will suggest switching to the Parliamentary Republic model but this will just be another trick, as it would give Saakashvili the chance to become a perpetual Prime Minister, as the Russian system allows.

There is another interesting issue to consider. So far the street protesters have not aired any economic grievances although the majority of them are in the streets because of the dire economic situation, poverty, unemployment and other social problems. Their general approach is simply that they do not trust the socially-oriented programmes recently initiated by the Government and are pinning their hopes on a future administration. Saakashvili is trying his utmost to convince the people of his commitment to genuine social reforms which will benefit the people, and thus calm the protest of the masses. However it is very difficult to predict with any assurance what will happen next.