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National forum to participate only in “result oriented” demonstrations

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, August 27
Autumn approaches and the “radical” opposition are promising a “new wave of protest” against President Mikheil Saakashvili. The National Forum, a political party established in 2006, was part of the 4-month-long rallies in Tbilisi this Spring. However, it’s leaders were clearly stating before and during the rallies that they were not in favor of the strategy chosen by the non-parliamentary opposition aimed at dismantling the government.

The leader of the Party Kakha Shartava, son of Zhiuli Shartava, a Georgian politician killed in Sukhumi in 1993 by Abkhaz militia, says the National Forum is not planning to participate in the upcoming rallies, unless they are “well-planned” and “result oriented”. “Nothing can be achieved by spontaneously calling the people in the streets. Now we have experience and we should have learned some lessons. We should not repeat past mistakes again,” Shartava said speaking to The Messenger in the National Forum office on Tuesday. He noted that his party joined the rallies on April 9 because this was the “public demand”.

“Most of society which shared our arguments, was asking us to participate in the rallies. Leaving them alone at that moment would not have been the right thing to do, especially when everyone expected the Government to disperse the rally in a few days. We were standing there until there was no longer any sense and justification to stand. Then it became very obvious that we needed to advance to a new stage, to more large-scale activities,” Shartava stated.

After the rally on May 26, when thousands of Georgians gathered at Dynamo stadium as a sign of protest against the government, the National Forum leaders decided to remove their cells from Rustaveli Avenue and start visiting the regions of Georgia. “After the May 26 peak of protests we felt that the protest should spread through the whole of Georgia and on August 7, on such an important day for Georgia, to bring the whole country into the street against the aggressor, and show that the Georgian people will not put up with either domestic or foreign injustice,” Shartava said. However, the plan proposed by the National Forum to go out to the regions and gather people for a large-scale rally on the anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war was not accepted by the “radical” opposition.

The Forum started going “from village to village” in order to “find out the mood of the ordinary people there.” Some politicians as well as political analysts have seen the move as the start of a pre-election campaign of the National Forum. However, Kakha Shartava has denied the allegations, saying that he cannot see “any elections on the horizon.” Shartava said the upcoming early self governance elections are nothing more than a “political hook” of President Saakashvili. “A Self governance system does not exist in Georgia, so how can we have self governance elections? In the situation when the elections are held through violence, bribes and terror, there is no sense even to think about the elections. Of course these trips to the regions and meeting with the people will benefit the party during the elections also, but we are not talking to the people for the sake of elections right now,” Shartava noted, adding that the main task of the opposition remains to achieve early Presidential or “at least” parliamentary elections.

Kakha Shartava said the National Forum has its own action plan in case the President resigns. He named holding fair elections as a first priority of the Party. “After this we should start making changes in the country, but in order to do so you need to have an idea what should be changed and improved,” the party leader stated. Recovering Georgian villages and agriculture is the second priority in the National Forum action plan. “We should help the villagers to gain some profit from their agriculture work,” Shartava said. Freeing the Georgian market from “the large amount of extra foreign agriculture products” and replacing them with Georgian ones is, according to the National Forum leader, a way to “encourage” Georgian farmers. Freeing business from the government’s control is also on Forum’s to do list.

The situation in the two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, is the inheritance that the next government of Georgia will get from the pervious ones. Shartava said a consistent approach is needed to solve the issue. According to the National Forum leader, Upper Abkhazia, currently occupied by Russian troops, should regain it’s old name of Kodori gorge, as well as South Ossetia should get its old name – Samachablo. “Now officially Russian soldiers are deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, not in Kodori or Samachablo,” Shartava said, adding that this fact makes it harder for Georgia to prove that Russia has occupied integral parts of Georgian territory.

According to Shartava solving internal problems of the country is a key to regaining the breakaway regions. “Georgia should become a country with which it will be desirable to talk. Otherwise there is no sense in talking about restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity. We should have citizens here who are not afraid in their own country and are hoping for the future. We should also have the government which at least loves the country and its people. First step towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia is freeing our citizens from fear, poverty, confusion and hopelessness. And these kinds of citizens will be able to talk with any country – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, US, and etc.. However, what we are seeing in the regions of Georgia today is that the current government is doing everything to make sure, that Georgia never sees Tskhinvali and Sokhumi return. And it will be disastrous for all – for Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. There will be no Georgia without Abkhazia and South Ossetian, as well as there will be no South Ossetia or Abkhazia without Georgia,” Shartava said.