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Returning to the same place

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 20
For over a month protest rallies have been held in Tbilisi every day with the sole demand that President Saakashvili resign. It looks as if the opposition does not intend to stop demanding this, although the President has several times stated openly that he will not step down and will stay in post until his constitutional term expires in 2013.

The country is slipping into a quite serious crisis if it has not already done so. Parliament and the State Chancellery cannot work in their own buildings and committee meetings and full Parliament sessions are being held all over the place, in the “field” or outside the capital. Further destabilization is also very possible as the dialogue held so far has not been successful. The administration has ignored the demands of the opposition and put forward its own agenda for dialogue, which the opposition has declared inadequate, saying it will continue its protests and even spread them throughout the country.

When serious people sit down for discussion they should agree on certain issues. You cannot hold a scientific conference if certain participants think that the earth is flat rather than round and is fixed and does not turn. The administration is trying to convince everybody outside and inside the country that there is no crisis, things are working perfectly and there are only a handful of these nasty protesters, all of whom are people kicked out their by the administration. However, among the protesters you will find quite a number of successful people, who are employed but are still protesting because of the lost territories, lost lives and IDPs, which are the real reasons why the President should resign. So the two sides are speaking different languages.

On May 18 during his meeting with the Parliamentary majority in Kakheti President Saakashvili once again excluded even the slightest possibility of holding either snap Presidential or Parliamentary elections. He said that holding such elections would be unwise for the country and would only complicate the current political and economic situation. He said Georgia would lose investments and time, and there would always be some political forces would not accept the resul s of elections if they lost anyway.

Saakashvili added that last year’s Presidential election was conducted fairly and he won with a big majority collecting twice as many vote as his nearest opponent. He suggested adopting a new election code which could be tested during the 2010 local elections as he felt that Georgia does not need destabilization and consolidation and dialogue are preconditions for democratic development. “The most important thing today is to concentrate on the economy and overcome the negative results of the crisis,” stated the President.

The opposition meanwhile have made a six-point proposal in which the major demand is still the President’s resignation. They think the country’s leadership is refusing to acknowledge the extent of the political crisis. Furthermore the opposition think that it is impossible to resolve any problems through constructive dialogue with the present leadership. Therefore we have a deadlock. Both sides speak different languages and their demands are mutually exclusive. No consolidation or dialogue will result from the parties maintaining their present positions, indeed on the contrary, the opposition plans to conduct a huge protest demonstration on Independence Day, May 26, when the Government of the day always holds rallies of its own in the streets.

We think still that the only reasonable solution is for the administration to offer the opposition Parliamentary elections instead of Presidential ones. The opposition is categorically against this, but if the President makes such a concession the opposition will agree if international organizations and partner countries support the idea. The President said that financial problems and destabilisation were the main obstacles to holding elections. In terms of destabilisation we think that the current situation contains more threats to destabilise the country than possible Parliamentary elections. As for financial poblems, once the President said publicly that it costs GEL 1.5 billion to hold elections. Maybe this was a slip of the tongue or maybe the National Movement really did spend that much money to win the elections, but realistically around USD 20 million must be enough.

Perhaps some international organisations or friendly countries could contribute this sum to rescue their strategic partner from the deep crisis which it is plunging itself into. This might not be the best way to do things but at least it is a reasonable way to give both sides the possibility of saving face and returning the country to normal. It would also give Georgia the chance to elect a really democratic, diverse and multiparty Parliament, unlike the existing one, which does not reflect the real political complexion of the country. A coalition may then need to be formed to create a majority Government, no bad thing in this context, and the country will then be able to develop constitutionally.