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The harvest we can expect in autumn

By Messenger Staff
Monday, August 24
Summer was mild in Tbilisi, climatically, politically and economically. Some analysts predict that the coming autumn will be hot politically, though this opinion is not unanimous. It is however certain that there will be some interesting developments in autumn.

The non-Parliamentary opposition, who were eventually frustrated after 106 days of holding protest rallies, erecting cells and so on have promised to renew their protest actions in a modified form. The protest rallies which began on April 9 did not achieve their primary goal, as President Saakashvili did not resign, and moreover several dozen opposition supporters were jailed on different charges, people grew disappointed at the apparent lack of progress, the improvised cells were removed, Parliament adopted very strict amendments to the laws on demonstrations and protests, the police were given increased powers to suppress rallies, Saakashvili and his team grew more confident and analysts and journalists started criticising the opposition. Therefore the opposition will have to completely reshuffle their strategy, tactics, methods and approaches if they are going to take any further public action against the Government.

The opposition’s actions were so romantic. There is a simple question to be asked: why were the opposition so sure that President Saakashvili would resign when he saw tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of protestors in the streets? This confidence was proven misplaced. However the leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition still stubbornly assure the population that there is a very serious protest mood in society and the people expect further rounds of rallies in autumn. One can only wonder, where does this optimism come from? Maybe the opposition cannot distinguish dreams from reality.

Many active politicians and analysts think that protest rallies have no point, as they did not produce any visible results in spring and are therefore unlikely to do so in autumn. There is indeed no additional factor being suggested which would ensure these protests achieved some result in autumn. History teaches us that the sort of confrontations we are seeing usually end with revolution. Today revolution is absolutely unacceptable for Georgian society and Georgia’s Western friends are also against revolution. It was not like this in 2003. Then the Georgian people were fed up with Shevardnadze and wanted him to go, saying “who could be worse than he?” Today the public are more demanding, wanting to know what any prospective replacement would actually do if they got rid of Saakashvili.

The so-called radical opposition have not found a common leader or explained to people either here or in the West what the country would be like under their rule, how it would develop and who would lead it. Unfortunately the Georgian population is now frustrated with all the political forces, from the ruling National Movement to the Parliamentary opposition, the non-Parliamentary variety and the semi-Parliamentary opposition like Labour. Some smaller parties are making attempts to unite, creating groups of 3-4 opposition parties. According to one of the distinct leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition Zviad Dzidziguri this will help them eventually create bigger bodies. However there is much scepticism about whether the opposition will be able to find any way to do that. The so-called radical opposition cannot agree on one leader although the people demand one. Some analysts suggest that most opposition groups think of Irakli Alasania as such a leader but it is known that former Chair of Parliament and now fierce opposition leader Nino Burjanadze is against this.

Analysts think that the tactic of bringing a mass of people into the streets and thus copying the Rose Revolution has no value and new approaches should be tried. Both the ruling National Movement and the opposition have expressed their satisfaction with the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Georgia. Both sides think that this visit should result in new and more democratic rules of game being implemented in Georgia. Surprisingly both parties insist that Biden supported them rather than their opponents, though he might genuinely have led both to believe that.

There is a certain feeling in the country that at last Georgia can move from a country of revolution and street protest into a democratic country with a sound political system. If this happened it would eventually create a better Government, regardless of its complexion, and also a better opposition. But this will be rather difficult to achieve in the near future because most probably the so-called radical part of the opposition will again demand Saakashvili’s resignation and snap Presidential elections, in defiance of the Constitution. However snap Parliamentary elections are not completely off the agenda. Joe Biden highlighted that politics should be moved from the street into Parliament. However the current Georgian Parliament does not adequately reflect the full spectrum of opinion in the country.

The local government elections scheduled for May 30, 2010 will most probably not satisfy the radical opposition, who will still insist on fresh Parliamentary elections, and this might become an additional slogan for the protestors from autumn. But before any further elections are held very serious amendments to the election code should be introduced, as demanded by the US and EU. If future elections are conducted the same way they are now all the protests will be in vain. Having got the elections they wanted but seen an equally unrepresentative Parliament elected, the opposition would have nowhere to go. That is not a good situation in any country, which claims a democracy.