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Saakashvili rules out early elections

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, May 19
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has once again rejected the main demand of the oppositional parties –early Parliamentary and Presidential elections.

“Considering the current political and economic situation in Georgia, early elections will only worsen things,” stated Saakashvili at a meeting with the Parliamentary majority on May 18 in the village of Tsinandali in Kakheti. The meeting was broadcast live by Georgian TV channels. The President underlined that the idea of holding early Parliamentary and Presidential elections is “unreal,” but noted that there is a possibility of conduct early local government elections. The President stated that calling early local elections would provide the opportunity for the present conflicting sides to “agree” on a new election system which would be “acceptable” for all the political forces in the country. “We can hold the local elections earlier. Let’s conduct them. Let’s agree on their results and then we can move to another stage and conduct Parliamentary and Presidential elections at their due constitutional terms.”

Saakashvili assured his political opponents that he is not going to prolong his Presidential term beyond 2013, its constitutional expiry date. However Saakashvili noted that Georgia needs political reforms that will lead to the “democratic development” of the country. He stated that he is ready for political dialogue with “any political forces in Georgia,” proposing an initiative of constitutional reforms. “Georgia needs a strong Presidency, a strong Parliament which will completely control the executive power and an independent court,” he said.

Saakashvili also noted that the political crisis in Georgia had created economic loss. “Our country has suffered serious harm in the past few weeks. We have to return to the normal pattern of development,” stated Saakashvili, adding that the opposition rallies in Tbilisi, which have been taking place for more than a month already, “drag Georgia back to the past, when the country suffered from hunger, cold and chaos. Georgia doesn’t need destabilisation, for democratic development we need consolidation and dialogue. The main thing now is to concentrate on the economy and overpowering the crisis,” stated Saakashvili on Monday.

Saakashvili proposed constitutional changes at his first meeting with the radical opposition on May 11. Despite the openly negative evaluation of this meeting by several leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition, some of their number have said it is necessary to continue this kind of dialogue. Talking about the different statements made by the opposition, Saakashvili noted that “there are some in the non-Parliamentary opposition who have no way back, but there also are those who are evaluating the reality of the situation created in Georgia.”

“I think everybody acknowledges that there needs to be constitutional change in Georgia. The Constitution must reflect a consensus in society about how the country should be governed. For that reason it is important that constitutional reform is an inclusive and transparent process. We do not have any particular view on exactly how that process should be structured. But it is in our interest to make sure that it is transparent and inclusive and that ultimately what emerges through that process reflects a consensus view,” stated the EU representative in Georgia Peter Semneby, commenting on the political situation in the country on May 18. “What needs to be done now is make sure that there is a continuation of this dialogue in more detail on concrete issues on the agenda – on constitutional issues, on electoral issues and on media-related issues in particular,” he added.

The President’s initiative on early local elections “was not a surprise” for political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili, the head of the Georgian Experts Club. Tsiskarishvili stated that this initiative was unofficially sounded back in August 2008. “This is just a trap, I’m sure that the opposition will not fall for this,” the expert told The Messenger on May 18. Soso Tsiskarishvili underlined that despite some differences inside the opposition, none of them will treat this proposal as serious. “The situation now reminds me of the situation in November 2007, when the protesting opposition demanded fair Parliamentary elections and got early Presidential and Parliamentary ones, for which they were unprepared. Now the opposition demands early Presidential elections and the Government proposes to conduct early local ones. I’m sure that if the elections are conducted now, the [governing party] National Movement will get 150 percent of the votes. There is no sign that the Government is ready to conduct fair and transparent elections yet,” stated Tsiskarishvili on Monday.