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Opposition will become more radical, Gachechiladze says

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, June 11
The Georgian President’s and the opposition’s perceptions of reality are different, prominent opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze said late on June 9, after meeting President Mikheil Saakashvili. The President had invited his main opponent in the 2008 Presidential elections to meet him at his Shavnabada residence on the outskirts of Tbilisi, as the opposition was commemorating two months of protest rallies against him.

“The opposition’s fight must become even stronger and even more radical,” Gachechiladze said after the two hour meeting. “All society should consolidate and challenge the existing regime. The opposition is going in the right direction,” Gachechiladze said on the Maestro TV show Cell number 5, hosted by his brother Giorgi Gachechiladze, late that night.

Levan Gachechiladze said that the President had talked about calling early local elections. “I told the President that local elections cannot solve the problem,” Gachechiladze told journalists. He said the President “cannot see the crisis”. “Saakashvili says that the budget does not have problems and state structures have not collapsed, however he admits that the country is in deadlock, which means he is admitting there is a crisis,” the opposition leader said.

Gachechiladze considers that one positive outcome of his meeting with Saakashvili might be the possible release of people detained since the start of protest rallies on April 9. “The President promised to revisit the cases of those people and probably they will be able to return to their families soon,” he said, adding that he would send a list of all the people detained since April 9 to the President. The issue of Imedi TV and Maestro had also been touched upon at the meeting, Gachechiladze said, adding that the President is not “adequate” concerning the issue of Imedi. “He seemed not to be so categorical on the matter of Maestro TV’s licence,” he added.

Non-Parliamentary opposition representatives have stressed the need to continue holding “peaceful protest rallies”. The leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, said the President’s assessment of the crisis in the country is “inadequate”. “The opposition will continue to hold peaceful demonstrations in order to create better conditions for negotiations,” Alasania said after a further meeting with Gachechiladze in the New Rights office late on June 9.

“The rallies will go on until the President resigns,” Eka Beselia from the Movement for United Georgia said. Beselia was among the opposition leaders who were sceptical about the meeting with Saakashvili, saying that it would produce no results. She said it would be a meeting between Saakashvili and Gachechiladze, not Saakashvili and the opposition, as Levan Gachechiladze would be there under his own “personal” mandate and not the mandate of the whole opposition.

After the meeting with Saakashvili Gachechiladze said he would like to create a new public movement which would focus on different issues, including the economy, health, business and the distribution of power. The opposition has promised to reveal more details about this next week.

Levan Gachechiladze remains the only source of information iabout the content of the meeting, as President Saakashvil has made no comment so far. However, some Government members have reacted to the meeting by saying that “there is a lot to talk about” and hoping that “some practical steps will follow”. Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze said the Administration is ready for dialogue. “We are ready to start dialogue in any format and any form with any of the leaders,” Bakradze stated on June 10.

Political analysts have said that the meeting revealed that there is a crisis in the Government. “When a month passes since the last contact with the opposition and then, instead of continuing negotiations with them, the President invites only one leader to talk to him and has nothing new to say, this first of all indicates there is a crisis inside the Government,” the President of the Experts Club, Soso Tsiskarishvili, said.

Political analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili said local elections cannot be a solution to a crisis. “The Government might be thinking that if one of the opposition leaders becomes a city mayor, the opposition might change their demands, however I don’t think that the opposition will change their demands even if one of their leaders agrees to participate in the Mayoral elections and wins,” Khutsishvili stated.

The analyst said there might be some link between the meeting and the arrival of Assistant US Secretary of State Philip Gordon in Tbilisi. “There is a question in the West about why the negotiations are not making progress. Saakashvili needed to take this step to show Western society that he is meeting one of the “most radical” leaders,” Khutsishvili told The Messenger.