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Autumn: will the opposition rise again?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, September 16
Generally politics stirs back into life in Autumn in Georgia. The question is, will the opposition which failed during the spring and summer actions be able to revive itself? There is still speculation about a possible opposition reunion, but it looks very much split today. The ‘United Opposition’ which organised the spring/summer actions no longer exists as a body and the parties which once coordinated their actions are now going their own separate ways.

Some opposition members still stress the importance of opposition unity and the creation of a united action plan. “In spring there was not enough integration, there were no joint mechanisms of execution, there was no united strategy,” Kakha Kukava, leader of Conservatives has stated. There are many challenges facing the opposition however. Sometimes it seems impossible for them to achieve any sort of unity; as the problem of the leader is always on the agenda. If the opposition does not support one joint candidate then its supporters will be split and the ruling party’s candidate, whoever it might be, will thus have a big advantage in any election.

The Conservatives suggest that primaries could be held to help the opposition spectrum decide who should stand for Tbilisi Mayor. However not all opposition parties agree with this idea and it is not known how much support it will gain. Furthermore the stance of the former leader of the United Opposition has not yet been clearly defined. Levan Gachechiladze has established the Defend Georgia movement and it is not known whether he intends to participate in the Mayor’s election and, therefore, any primaries. The Labour Party’s position is also an obstacle to opposition unity, as it is categorical in its demand that the opposition should unite behind its own leader, Shalva Natelashvili. There is also the possibility that some non-Parliamentary opposition members will be unable to resist the temptation to reclaim the seats they abandoned voluntarily last year in protest against election manipulation.

We think that the opposition’s major problem is that they have no clear cut strategy. Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that the administration has learned from the Autumn 2007 events and its conduct in the spring 2009 was rational, calm and well-designed while the opposition’s plans were chaotic and consisted of little more than ‘let’s start something and see what happens’. Political analyst Archil Gegeshidze thinks that people who protested have exhausted their energy and it will be difficult for them to recover it now. However most analysts agree that a mood of protest still exists in society and although the administration feels it has been victorious it is making mistakes still.

It is difficult to identify when the protests will return to the streets. Archil Gegeshidze thinks that a new wave of protest should be expected in spring 2010, not this year. The administration, if it really wants to prevent these, must immediately implement serious practical reforms in the court system, media, election code, Constitution and so on. These reforms should be genuinely designed to promote democracy, not PR actions seeking to whitewash the Government’s failures.