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On the edge of civil confrontation

By Messenger Staff
Monday, June 15

The confrontation between the authorities and the non-Parliamentary opposition is becoming more and more tense and if urgent steps are not taken there is a high possibility that the political process might start being conducted outside constitutional boundaries. The only solution is to start a genuine dialogue, however neither side has shown a real commitment to doing this.

The non-Parliamentary opposition is insisting that country is in deep political crisis and nothing else but the resignation of the President and snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections can rescue the situation. The administration however categorically denies there are even the slightest signs of crisis, calling the current situation a political process. To demonstrate that everything is OK the Government has started holding Parliament sessions again. The opposition argue that the fact that Parliament has not been able to function for more than two months proves the existence of a serious crisis. Moreover, the State Chancellery does not function, the Presidentís Chancellery does not function and the President is holding official meetings in different premises, such as the new Ministry of Internal Affairs building.

On June 12 even the MPs did not expect the Parliament session to be held in the Parliament building. Chairman of Parliament Davit Bakradze explained this decision by saying there was an urgent need to pass certain laws. He said that the previous suspension of Parliament had been done to avoid possible provocations from the opposition. At record speed the reconvened MPs adopted 96 laws, but unpleasant events occurred when they left the building. Some radically-oriented opposition supporters, mostly from their youth wings, organized corridors of shame for the MPs and in some cases threw eggs and plastic bags filled with water at them and physically abused them.

TV channels broadcast the hooliganism live and members of the diplomatic corps condemned it, calling it anti-democratic. However opposition members denied they had misbehaved, claiming that the use of force had been initially provoked by state-controlled groups who had brutally attacked peaceful protesters, throwing stones at them, before they started throwing eggs. Regardless of who is right however such actions are not supportive of the democratic claims Georgia has and should be condemned, no matter who initiated them.

Later the same evening some of the most aggressive protesters were detained and sentenced to 20-25 days in prison. The leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition meanwhile demanded that the international community protect the protestors from continual physical and legal attacks by law enforcement bodies. A special statement adopted by the opposition says there are two ways of putting pressure on opposition members. The first is direct action, in which state-sponsored groups of people physically attack opponents, terrorize them, beat them up and abuse their rights. The second is legal terror, which consists of detaining and sentencing opposition activists on baseless charges such as possession of arms and using drugs. 200 such cases have been identified by the opposition, but not investigated by the authorities.

A very significant role is being played in this confrontation by Nino Burjanadze and her party. Many members of her organisation have been detained and arrested, and she continuously repeats that the way chosen by the administration will lead to civil confrontation. It is a fact that since June 12 confrontation has increased even more, and the non-Parliamentary opposition have promised to become even more active, as Parliament must meet once again before it goes into recess. The opposition is preparing for this sitting by developing a new and more energetic way of protest. The crucial question is how the administration will respond.