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Prospects of failed dialogue

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 13
The start of dialogue between the President and the radical, non-Parliamentary opposition came as a surprise, particularly after the May 6 clashes in front of the Tbilisi Police Department building, and engendered some hopes. However not surprisingly the first round of these negotiations yielded no results. Both sides simply repeated their previous points, each stressing the inappropriate conduct of the other, with no middle ground of points of agreement appearing between them.

We can assume that both sides are right to a certain extent, and this makes current situation even more dangerous and inflammable. The non-Parliamentary opposition still stubbornly demands President Saakashvili’s resignation and the holding of snap elections. They think this is the only issue that should be negotiated about. Most local as well as foreign political analysts however consider this demand impractically excessive, thinking it practically excludes dialogue being held as it offers no other possible subject. They recommend that the opposition adopt a more flexible minimum position and thereby make negotiations possible. But the administration is unconstructive as well. It rules out any possibility of conducting any type of snap elections, highlighting as ever that elections will only be held at the Constitutionally-mandated times. However many analysts think that holding snap Parliamentary elections would resolve the present crisis.

Both sides need to make some concessions. If it achieves nothing the radical opposition might lose face, and the administration will keep its own face if it still refuses to hold Presidential elections but does agree to Parliamentary ones. At present all the authorities are doing is suggesting amendments to the election law and other minor things. However the opposition think that creating a Commission to look at each issue is bureaucratic, as saying goes,” that if you don’t want to do something, you create a Commission”. Therefore these issues will never been resolved, and addressing them is not going to be enough to satisfy the opposition anyway, so again there is deadlock.

There is limit to trust. The Government has driven the opposition into the streets by breaching that limit. The popular feeling of frustration is likely to further increase now that opposition members have met the President and no consensus has emerged. What we are seeing is not democratic conduct but an imitation of dialogue, despite the fact both sides say they want to introduce Western standards and values into political life. The clashes in front of the Police Department building created the feeling that there was a threat of events getting completely out of control and the announcement that dialogue would be held was met with relief by the population. But it seems that an imitation dialogue has taken place, at the demand of Westerners, so that both sides can say: see, we entered dialogue but the other side frustrated it.

The alternative to dialogue is the continuation of protest actions. The administration’s expectation that the opposition would just get tired and go home proved ill-founded. In his statement after the dialogue President Saakashvili gave some serious hints, suggesting that he is ready to take some initiative and possibly try to suppress the opposition. May 26, Georgia’s Independence Day, is approaching. The Government will most probably express its wish to hold the traditional military parade on Rustaveli Avenue. Though it sounds ridiculous to parade a defeated Army before the public the parade could be used as a reason for refusing to allow further protest actions on Rustaveli Avenue. If the police try to remove the cells blocking the avenue this could be easily transform into clashes. The clashes outside the Police Department showed that anything can happen. We hope nothing like this will take place but there is always the possibility.

This confrontation is driving the country into disaster, politically and economically. Both sides blame each other but doing so does not make anything better. More responsibility should be taken by both sides. It is time they decided that the welfare of the country was more important than their own principles.