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Saakashvili’s proposals “inadequate”, opposition say

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, May 13
The opposition have said that they are ready to meet President Saakashvili in the future, “if Saakashvili responds adequately to the current political crisis in the country” and “if the President realistically perceives the political crisis.” The opposition’s position was voiced by Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of the Way of Georgia, on Tuesday, the day after the first meeting between the “radical” opposition and the Georgian President. “We are ready to carry on the dialogue and talk with the President about how to drag the country out of any crisis” Zourabichvili said after four-hour consultations between opposition leaders at the Democratic Movement-United Georgia headquarters concerning their future action plan.

The leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, who did not attend the meeting at the DMUG headquarters (his party was represented by Zurab Abashidze), also said that although the Government and opposition had failed to reach an agreement on Monday the dialogue should continue. “The views of the opposition and the authorities on the political crisis in the country still do not coincide, however the issues which were discussed yesterday are very important for the country’s political life,” Alasania said. Georgia’s former UN Ambassador said that amidst negotiations the protest rallies will continue as usual.

Lawmakers from the ruling party have said that Saakashvili’s proposals were “absolutely adequate” and that Georgian society is concerned about these problems. “Nobody can say that Georgian society is not concerned with these issues. We have heard these themes from the opposition many times before. They are Constitutional reform, meaning the further strengthening of Parliament and the relative weakening of Presidential powers, completing court system reform, giving more independence to judges, and establishing a new election environment and election code. It is impossible to constantly have a situation in which the political party defeated in the elections is discontent with the results and blames the election code for its defeat,” Vice Parliament Speaker Mikheil Machavariani said on Tuesday.

The long-awaited and much speculated about meeting between the opposition leaders and President Mikheil Saakashvili ended with “no results” because according to the opposition “the two sides’ assessments of reality did not coincide.” “The President thinks everything is fine in the country, and the opposition thinks everything is bad,” “radical” opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze said after the two-hour meeting with Saakashvili. Speaking at the opposition demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue later the same day, Gachechiladze said that “now the opposition has the right to make the demonstrations more acute.”

Leader of the Alliance for Georgia Irakli Alasania confirmed that the meeting had brought no results but added that “the people should not give up.” Unlike all the other leaders of the opposition who had attended the meeting, Alasania stressed the importance of continuing talks with the President “as the only way out of the crisis.”

The President seemed to be more content with the meeting, calling it “the day of the victory of Georgian democracy.” “I welcome the fact that after such radicalism and after so many heavy expressions and assaults, more constructive and civilized steps have been taken,” the President said. He added that he had offered several possible crisis solutions to the opposition. One of them was creating a special commission which will work out a “balanced Constitutional model”, envisaging both a strong Presidency and Parliament. Saakashvili said he offered the radical opposition the opportunity to name the Chair of this commission.

The President also said that he offered the opposition the opportunity to participate in court system reform and creating such an election code that “nobody will want to appeal against the results it brings.” Saakashvili also said that he is “ready to see representatives of the opposition in different responsible positions.” Saakashvili noted that he had offered the opposition equal representation on the Georgian Public Broadcaster Board, as well as creating a TV channel on the basis of the Second Channel of the GPB, which will “give a free tribune to all political groups.”

Saakashvili said he hopes the talks will bring positive results. “I have no illusions that we will agree on every issue. During the last few days many people, including me, have been humiliated, but we should stand above all this. We should help each other overcome the world crisis and the results of the occupation. Georgia needs dialogue, unity and civilized debate,” the President said.

Saakashvili made hints about the need to end the protest rallies in his speech. “The time of the circus is over,” he said. The President stressed that “nobody has the right to oppress society because of his personal views – block the streets, not let emergency service cars pass, not let someone bring his child to school, check the documents of journalists without having any right. We will not allow a new Mkhedrioni or so-called civil formations to develop. Those times are over,” Saakashvili said, adding that “All streets and corners of the city should return to calm and stability.”

The former Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze, now one of the leaders of the opposition, downplayed Saakashvili’s words. “Today the President threatened that he will not let us block the roads, let’s see who will win. We will block the roads, will go to the regions too and make Saakashvili flee this country,” Burjanadze stated.

The Government has made its proposals about changes in the Constitution and Election Code a bit too late, analysts suggest. Political commentator Archil Gegeshidze said the authorities should have made these proposals before the April rallies began. Soso Tsiskarishvili suggested that the meeting between the opposition and the Government showed that the authorities have no resources for dialogue. “The reiterated calls of the Government for dialogue ended with a long monologue from President Saakashvili. He increased the protest mood in society with his statements,” Interpressnews quoted Tsiskarishvili as saying.

Late on Tuesday the opposition said they would continue with the rallies. “We will carry on fighting in order to show the world and the Government that Georgia is in deep crisis,” David Gamkrelidze from the New Rights Party noted. According to Salome Zourabichvili protest rallies will be held on May 26, Georgia’s Independence Day.