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At the point of serious civil confrontation

By Messenger Staff
Friday, May 8
The administration and opposition constantly discuss the possibility of conducting dialogue. However at the same time both are sliding into a situation which threatens to turn into a serious civil confrontation. The tactic of ignoring opposition demands has provoked the non-Parliamentary opposition to express their protest in increasingly dramatic ways. Situations such as the present aggressive standoff generally become uncontrollable in a very short time and create dire consequences for the countries they occur in. Politicians on both sides of the divide now have an even greater responsibility to ensure that civil confrontation is avoided.

The incident on the late evening of May 6 in front of the Tbilisi Central Police Department which eventually transformed into physical contact between protesters and law enforcers has drawn a line in the sand. If there is any repetition of it, one side or the other, or both, will feel justified in retaliating any way it knows how, throwing the Constitution out of the window. The mood of hatred has noticeably increased, which is deeply unfortunate for Georgia.

Society has divided into those who support Misha and those who oppose him. The Presidentís supporters are also divided between those who trust him and those who merely depend on him for good salaries and other benefits. His opponents are also divided into those who go out into the streets and those who donít join the protests but nevertheless donít like the regime. These divisions add to the tinder box. Violence could occur at any moment, particularly if the opposition start blocking the motorways, aggressively picketing the state institutions and, in particular, trying to enter these buildings.

There is no alternative to holding some sort of dialogue, negotiation or whatever the sides wish to call it. Refusing to do this will lead to something much worse than revolution. One thing should be clearly understood: Saakashvili will not just go home, as President Shevardnadze did about 5 years ago. We should not be so naive, either, as to think that some influential person will come and take Saakashvili somewhere.

The sides have brought us to the edge of catastrophe. Both should realistically evaluate the situation. Using force would not be in the interests of the administration as this would create even greater protest in society. However the regime not will collapse by itself, so as long as it has vocal opponents who will disrupt the country to try and force it out, the threat of violence will remain.

Today we cannot say that the people are on one side and the leadership on the other. It is difficult to estimate exactly what percentage of the population is dissatisfied with the administration and backing the opposition. It seems to be quite large but part of the population is quite solidly opposed to the current developments, does not agree with the methods of the opposition, does not accept its leadership and asks, if Saakashvili goes, who and what will guarantee that democracy will replace him? It should be remembered that, one or two apart, the opposition leaders were with Saakashvili during the Rose Revolution and afterwards. Will the new leadership be really democratic or just a new combination of the same old faces? Georgia experienced such a transition with blood during Gamsakhurdiaís rule and smoothly during Shevardnadzeís time.

The administration has taken the right step to dampen the confrontation by accepting the recommendation of the Patriarch and releasing three young man detained two days ago on a charge of hooliganism. But why did it not do this earlier before the violence started? It looks as if the administration is still one step behind instead of one step ahead. It would be preferable if the administration began a dialogue about the demands of the opposition, not the items on its own agenda, thereby showing serious goodwill and a commitment to resolving the situation peacefully. It would still be a step behind, but might then be catching up.