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Opposition make suggestions to EU

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, May 4
On May 2 the Parliamentary opposition met Peter Semneby, EU Special Envoy for the South Caucasus, at the office of the EU representation in Tbilisi and presented its view on the way to overcome the political crisis. Semneby had met non-Parliamentary opposition representatives the day earlier, on May 1, and also had a further meeting, with the Alliance for Freedom, later on May 2.

The Parliamentary opposition members talked about the necessity of starting talks between the Government and opposition and working on a new Constitution. The opposition members said that proper results can be achieved only by means of dialogue and that blocking off the roads, as the non-Parliamentary opposition have done, only hinders this. MP Guram Chakhvadze, a lawmaker from the National Democratic Party, said that he presented his party’s position, involving the need for fundamental Constitutional reform which would pave the way for a significant cutting of Presidential powers and an increase in the power of Parliament. The National Democrats say that society should be included in this reform process via a referendum.

Members of the Alliance for Freedom, a group which unites the Freedom Party, Traditionalists, Party of the Future and Party of Women for Justice and Equality and is part of the radical opposition, also talked about necessity of system changes at their May 2 meeting with Semneby.

The Alliance demanded the inclusion of international mediators in any talks between the Government and opposition in order to restore confidence between the sides. It thinks that not only should the talks process be monitored but the implementation of the decisions which might emerge from such talks. Although the Alliance has joined the opposition rallies it says its engagement in the planning of protests is not significant and it is distancing itself from the organizers of the large scale rallies.

Peter Semneby, who is undertaking informal meditation between the Government and opposition, has been holding discussions in Tbilisi between the two sides since the start of the protest rallies. After the May 1 meeting with the radical opposition Semneby stated that street rallies should be replaced by political processes. “As we have said before it is important for this country and the European Union, as a friend and partner of Georgia, that the situation we have here in the streets is transformed into a political process; that’s definitely the best thing for the country,” Semneby told journalists. He added that the amendments to the Election Code and system of government that the authorities are proposing should be discussed as an alternative to Saakashvili’s resignation and that neither side should insist on preconditions for dialogue. “One should avoid talking about preconditions for negotiations to start. If someone does that and piles one issue on top of the other, we will never get negotiations going,” Semneby remarked.

The Leader of Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, also said that starting talks without preconditions, in parallel to the protest rallies, was necessary. “This meeting [with the President, as the Alliance for Georgia has proposed] is necessary and we are preparing for it. In the next few days my political team plans to elaborate the concrete proposals we will make at the meeting; these will first of all be presented to my political partners [the Republican and New Rights parties],” Alasania said on May 1 on Rustavi 2 TV’s late night political talk show, Position, adding that if the meeting takes place it will be possible to find a way out of this crisis.

Commenting after the May 1 meeting with Semneby, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze said that the opposition maintain their original position and the only thing they will discuss with the authorities is Saakashvili’s resignation, adding that the opposition is ready to explain to Government representatives as well as society at large why the Georgian President should resign. Prior to this statement Burjanadze has stated on Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV on April 30 that if the current protests fail to yield results President Saakashvili would further increase his hold on power and Georgia will turn into a “dictatorship.”

“If these protest rallies end without success – I do not want to even say this, but let’s say it hypothetically – this will mean we will see a dictatorship, it will mean Georgia will transform from an autocratic state into a pure dictatorship,” she said.