The messenger logo

Regroupings in the opposition

By Messenger Staff
Monday, July 13
Demonstration of the mood of protest against the current authorities has decreased considerably. Summer is not the best time for protests, it is too hot and Georgians don’t like protesting in the heat. Politics is a seasonal business. A temporary time out is being taken and the opposition is using this time to elaborate a new strategy, regroup and re-concentrate its activities.

However, despite it being summer there are still certain dates on which the opposition plans to organise big rallies. One of these will be held during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Tbilisi, and another on 7 August, the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian-Georgian war. The administration is also getting ready and counterattacking. A draft law is being prepared which will further restrict the possibility of holding protest rallies. The opposition call this a “slam to democracy”. The Parliamentary majority call it “rule of law”.

It is very difficult to give a clear-cut assessment of what the situation is now, whether the opposition have lost, the authorities have won or what. The picture is not black and white. In some ways the opposition have made a certain progress, but the same could equally be said of the authorities. Both have also made mistakes though. The protest wave has diminished, that is for sure. Fewer and fewer people stand in front of Parliament every day, and if they come their meeting lasts no more than 2 hours, maybe less. Three months of protesting has been a very hard job. It should be added that the protestors had no clear strategy about how to continue. Even from the very beginning their demand for the President’s resignation was based mostly on mere enthusiasm rather than common sense. There was a stubborn confidence that when Saakashvili saw a hundred thousand people protesting against him he would resign. Where this confidence came from is not known, but it was there. The administration meanwhile recovered from the initial shock, got back on its feet after being knocked down and regained its confidence, often inflating this to arrogance.

One and the same fact can be evaluated differently depending on the angle you look at it from, your standpoint, your approach, your vision, your intellect and so on. An optimist sees a glass of water half full, whereas a pessimist sees it half empty. The opposition insist that its protest has continued every day for three months. The authorities however see the same fact differently – they have resisted such pressure from the opposition for three months and are now slowly recovering their position. The State Chancellery is no longer blocked off and has resumed its work. Parliamentary sessions have also been resumed. Saakashvili’s administration has returned to its residence and all the streets are unblocked except Rustaveli Avenue in front of the Parliament building. Even the makeshift cells still there will most probably be removed by the time Joe Biden arrives in Tbilisi.

The leaders of the opposition still claim that protest charge is here and the fight will continue until the administration is changed. The loud slogans are still being chanted but they don’t work as before. The two promised rallies will be a big challenge for the opposition - can they gather the same number of people they did on May 26? However by then the authorities might have introduced their new amendments to the law on demonstrations, which would make the situation more uncertain.

On some maps dry rivers are marked. These are dry almost the whole year, but then all of a sudden mountain waters start flowing into them, reaching a dangerous level, maybe flooding the whole area, destroying lives, dwellings and everything. Some time ago opposition leader Irakli Alasania answered a question from The Messenger by saying that “they will not be able to solve the problems by ignoring them.” The administration should realise this. Maybe they will be victorious temporarily, maybe they will suppress the protests physically, maybe they will not mention the term crisis, but nothing is solved by ignoring it, renaming it and deceiving yourself by conducting an ostrich policy.

Just couple of days ago, on July 10, a new popular movement was established – Protect Georgia. One of the leaders of the opposition, Saakashvili’s main Presidential opponent Levan Gachechiladze, will presumably lead it. This public union will not recruit politicians. It is not a political organisation. It is designed to attract as many people as possible and is a challenging venture which cannot be ignored. That’s why the ruling authorities immediately started trying to discredit the union by making allegations that money from certain former Shevardnadze acolytes now in Russia is financing the organisation. The next few months will show where the population’s sympathies lie.

Another recently very popular organisation, but a political one, the Alliance for Georgia, is also reinforcing itself. Soon its leader Irakli Alasania will establish a new party called Our Georgia-Free Democrats. Most probably the Alliance for Georgia, which already has the Republicans, New Rights and Alasania’s new entity in membership, will be joined by the National Forum, a highly respected, solid and popular organisation.

Some experts think that these regroupings don’t mean much as such. Consolidation of this type is valid before elections, but since it is very unclear whether any elections will be held in the near future, it is rather premature to start contemplating who might be ahead. However the race is on, and the rivals are almost neck and neck. How they jump the fences still in front of them will determine who wins.