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Split or manoeuvre?

By Messenger Staff
Friday, May 15
The non-Parliamentary opposition continue to conduct protests, united by the slogan “Misha must go!” However the first round of dialogue seems on the surface to have caused a problem for the opposition. Some opposition leaders say there is no prospect of further dialogue and only protest rallies will achieve anything. Others however feel that dialogue with authorities is the way to obtain concessions and thus remove Saakashvili step by step.

Dialogue is the approach of the Alliance for Georgia and the National Forum. Nino Burjanadze’s party and Eka Beselia, from former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili’s party, reject it. They say talking will lead the opposition nowhere and Saakashvili is only doing it to gain time and discredit the opposition. There are yet more opposition parties which have not yet taken a distinct position on this issue, including Salome Zourabichvili’s The Way of Georgia, the Conservative Party and the supporters of the now independent Levan Gachechiladze. The Parliamentary opposition is totally dialogue-oriented and is prepared to take everything Saakashvili is ready to give. It should be noted however that if Saakashvili gives up everything this will be as much the result of street actions as diplomacy by the Parliamentary opposition.

An intriguing possibility is being suggested. Maybe this visible opposition split is a smart tactical manoeuvre. One group of opposition leaders will continue putting pressure on Saakashvili in the streets and spreading the protest countrywide and another will leave the administration a way out by continuing with the dialogue, trying to make it retreat, give up, make concessions, whatever. All the leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition still say they are united, there is no split among them and they stand by their main demand, even though they are saying different things about talking to the President. So maybe this ‘split’ is really a very smart move. The Saakashvili administration cannot accuse the radical opposition of not wanting dialogue. It can speak with the Alliance for Georgia and National Forum, while the rest continue holding protest rallies with the same vigour as before and fanning these out from the capital.

Independence Day, May 26, will prove interesting. The annual military parade which accompanies this is usually held on Rustaveli Avenue, only once, after the Rose Revolution, being held elsewhere, on the right bank of the Mtkvari in Ortachala. With the date approaching the administration faces a dilemma. It must either cancel the parade, hold it in another place or disperse the protest rallies by force, as the opposition has refused to remove the cells in front of Parliament on Rustaveli. It looks as if the authorities may make concessions rather than conduct a ‘general’ battle against the opposition, as it is difficult to evaluate the possible consequences of this, and if they turned out not to be good, which would probably be so, the country’s image in a democratic world would be further damaged. Also, should a military parade be held at all? The country has recently lost a war, after all.

The situation in the centre of Tbilisi has not changed for more than a month. Luckily there have not been any serious hostilities so far, although there have been some clashes and sporadic physical confrontations. But still the situation is tense and not normal. For more than a month Parliament has not met, the State Chancellery is not functioning normally, travel to and from Georgia of the officials is at a minimum and still there is no visible solution to the crisis.

“Something is rotten in the State of Denmark,” as Hamlet would have said.