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Opposition blockades Mayor’s Office

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, May 29
The more radical opposition parties have announced that they are planning to picket strategic facilities and will continue holding daily rallies demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation. On Thursday demonstrators picketed the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and blocked the adjacent Shartava Street for about 2 hours, accusing Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava of corruption and of being a “media censor”. They wrote graffiti on the Mayor’s Office building calling on Ugulava to resign, while members of the youth wings of various opposition parties later threw eggs at the building.

Irakli Batiashvili from the Republican Party said that as neither the Parliament nor the Chancellery are currently functioning it is “logical” to blockade the Mayor’s Office. David Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party, called on the employees of Tbilisi Mayor’s Office to “stand with the Georgian people and be at their service.” “We remember the Mayor’s office’s involvement in rigging elections, we remember Ugulava’s conduct during the August war. Our demand is the dismissal Ugulava along with Saakashvili and Merabishvili and the depoliticising of the Mayor’s Office,” Gamkrelidze stated.

Mamuka Katsitadze, also from the New Rights Party, said the picketing of other strategic buildings is planned. The co-leader of the Conservative Party, Zviad Dzidziguri, stated that the same kind of rallies will be held daily. He noted that the rallies are aimed at showing the world that the activity of the opposition is not decreasing.

Speaking to the demonstrators in front of the Mayor’s Office, the leader of the People’s Party, Koba Davitashvili, called on the authorities to respond to the oppositions’ actions. He said that although the Government told the opposition not to block the railway lines and highways, the opposition still did so and the Government did nothing in response. “Officials from the Mayor’s office also told us not to dare to come close to the building, but we have still come,” Davitashvili said, adding, “Our fight will not stop. At any time, in any weather, we will go wherever you lead us.”

Meanwhile, the National Forum has announced that it will start campaigning in Georgia’s regions. “The opposition have taken the capital from the Government, and now we will take the regions as well,” Gubaz Sanikidze said on May 28, adding that despite differences in strategies, the opposition forces’ aim remains one – forcing Saakashvili to step down.

The Georgian Patriarchate made a special statement on May 28 about the ongoing political processes in Georgia. It says that the words of the Patriarch during the church service on May 26 produced a “controversial reaction” from the public, as they were perceived as expressing a position solely supportive of the Government. “The Church is a uniting power and its mission is peace. Our statement of May 26 was aimed at calming the situation. It was widely known that the Government was not going to make any compromises, and in the event of sharp actions from the demonstrators there was a possibility that a clash and bloodshed might occur. In the national interests the Church decided to bear a heavy burden and made a step that would prevent a real threat to our people developing. This does not mean that the problem has gone away. The situation remains tense. We think that the Government should take effective steps, either through early elections, negotiations or something else, to discharge tensions,” the Georgian Patriarch’s statement reads.

Commenting on the statement, ruling party MPs noted that the Patriarch has “saved Georgia from huge danger.” National Movement MP Goka Gabashvili said discussing the issue of calling snap elections is possible in the format of dialogue between the Government and opposition. “The Patriarch has proved once more that he is not taking any side in the political game, but is the consolidator of society,” Gabashvili stated “It is necessary to urgently start joint work on improving the election environment, and as for appointing snap elections, in the process of working and negotiating everything is possible,” the MP added.

The non-Parliamentary opposition has said that the Patriarch’s statement indicates how tense and dangerous the situation is in the country. Pikria Chikhradze from the Alliance for Georgia said that the Patriarch was forced to make Thursday’s statement in order to stop speculation about his previous, May 26 statement. “Ilia II called on the Government to take effective steps and named some ways out of the crisis,” Chikhradze said.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that the Patriarch’s statement points out that “every way is acceptable for the Patriarchate for releasing tensions.” He said that on May 26 the emotional force of the demonstrators worried the Patriarchate and the Church took an equally distant position from both sides. “Discharging the situation and avoiding violence is the main issue for the Church,” Sakvarelidze noted.

The President of the Experts Club, Soso Tsiskarishvili, has cast doubt on whether the Government will consider the Patriarch’s advice about holding snap elections. He stated that confusion among the citizens made the Patriarchate discuss the May 26 speech in detail. Tsiskarishvili suggested reading the Patriarch’s appeal from beginning to end to fully understand his point of view.