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Now about the opposition

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, September 2
It is generally acknowledged that summer is a politically dead season in Georgia. Things usually get going again in September. However we doubt that this summer can be considered politically dead. Of course the noisy street actions died away by mid-July but serious regrouping has taken place within the opposition and the Government carousel has been turning throughout August. We can expect these things to continue.

Analysts and the media pay most attention to that part of the opposition sometimes called the non-Parliamentary or “radical” opposition, which starting on April 9 held street protests for more than three months demanding the resignation of President Saakashvili and snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Some big and small parties united in a very subtle coalition under this abovementioned demand. One should admit that in reality this opposition was not radical at all. Its protest rallies, attracting tens of thousands of people at certain times, did not become revolutionary. Its leaders did not want the country to endure another revolution, unlike in 2003 when then-opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili led the storming of Parliament. The present opposition did not want to act outside constitutional norms, although the mood of the first protest rallies might reasonably have encouraged it to do so.

Here we should introduce to our readers the journalist Shalva Ramishvili, who was once among the ideologists of the Rose Revolution and a close ally of Mikheil Saakashvili but later left his team and was convicted of blackmail and bribery, spending 4 years in prison. Ramishvili was released about a week ago and is now actively involved in the opposition movement. Recently he has made many comments on the current situation in the country. “They (the opposition) stated from the very beginning that they would not conduct a revolution. They just wanted to frighten Saakashvili, hoping that he would resign when he saw so many people in the streets.” However Ramishvili thinks that the opposition brought out into the streets the segment of the population which was ready for revolution. “They gave birth to the hope of revolution, so they should then have taken that step and started a revolution. They should have committed suicide. They should have gone to the prisons but they did not,” he says.

Ramishvili says that failing to take the next step was the major failing of the radical opposition. The people grew frustrated. As a result the opposition parties’ ratings fell, they lost their unity, they started accusing each other of shortcomings and so on. Some of the non-Parliamentary opposition leaders are still talking about bringing people back out into the streets, but it is unlikely that they will enjoy enough public trust to persuade people to do this. Much has been written about there being no demand for revolution in Georgian society, and positive programmes being better than negative slogans. However an unfortunate tradition has been established since Georgia regained its independence. Only the Communists held elections and gave up power, back in October 1990, handing over to the nationalists of Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Just over a year later he was ousted in a paramilitary coup d’etat and all subsequent elections were rigged at different levels. In 2003 the bloodless Rose Revolution took place but the tradition of rigged elections continues.

The solution is for Georgia to establish once and for all the practice of fair elections, which would leave no doubt or suspicion that they were manipulated. Only in this way can revolution be avoided and the orderly transfer of power from one political party to another achieved. Without it there will always be the threat of revolutionary developments. Georgia’s Western friends support this and have continually recommend to the Georgian leadership that it take this direction, as there is no other way to establish stability in the country.

The only outcome the three months of protest rallies achieved is that local government elections have been set for May 30, 2010, several months earlier than originally scheduled. Saakashvili initiated this change but so far Parliament has not confirmed it. Let’s hope all political parties will participate in these elections as ignoring them would mean a further aggravation of the crisis in the country. Although ruling National Movement denies the existence of a crisis, it is not an issue of terminology but of essence, and what we are experiencing has the effect of a crisis, no matter what you call it.

You can call the current situation “hard”, “problematic”, “difficult” or even “controversial”. The terminology will reflect opinion, not reality. But fair elections will definitely rescue the country from the situation it is in now.