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Opposition attempt to unite

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 27
The opposition parties are attempting to unite and start a new series of protest rallies commemorating November 7, 2007, when law enforcement bodies brutally dispersed a peaceful demonstration in front of Parliament and later in the Rike district of Tbilisi. The non-Parliamentary opposition, the so-called Radicals, are not firmly united and have not gained strong popular support so far. They have no common vision, action plan or platform. One member of the former United Opposition, Koko Gamsakhurdia, has also announced that he will reclaim his Parliamentary seat while others who refused to take theirs continue to boycott Parliament. All these details discredit the non-Parliamentary opposition and create a certain feeling of public frustration towards it.

However some opposition leaders are still trying to create grounds for launching another round of protest rallies they would all support. For instance, the former Parliament Chair and now one of the most radical of opposition leaders, Nino Burjanadze, Leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, is holding a public presentation of her party’s vision of the country’s security concept, former Foreign Minister and now leader of The Way of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili is also trying to unite the opposition by compiling a joint document containing accusations against Saakashvili. It is very interesting, in passing, that these are female leaders, and should be noted by those who doubt the gender balance in Georgian society.

Zourabichvili has offered each opposition party the chance to submit an analysis of Saakashvili’s six years of rule to go into her document. She proposes that on November 7, at a united and open meeting, each of the parties will air its own analysis. Representatives of the media, NGOs and the public will attend this and all the conclusions drawn by the parties would be published and distributed to the population. The document will also be translated into foreign languages and thus be made available to the international community as well. Zourabichvili thinks that the document will demonstrate both the unity and diversity of the opposition. It will also put further distance between Georgia on the one hand and Saakashvili on the other, she thinks.

Zourabichvili also suggests that since the Tagliavini Commission put the blame for starting the 2008 war and bombarding Tskhinvali on the Georgian side Georgia is discredited and trust towards it has been lost. She therefore thinks that the conclusions drawn by the different opposition parties would draw a red line separating Mikheil Saakashvili and his mistakes from Georgia. It should be said, however, that appealing to the Tagliavini Commission’s conclusions is not the best line of argument. First of all the document is so well written from the diplomatic point of view that it contains passages to comfort both sides, Georgia and Russia. Ministers mostly point out the sentences in the conclusion which can be interpreted in Georgia’s favour. Furthermore the document has already been available for more than three weeks and has not provoked the general public to go out and protest against Saakashvili. Opposition claims that Saakashvili will share Milosevic’s fate have not so far been proven to have any foundation, as for many people, regardless of whether they approve of Saakashvili, trying to remove the war leader would be seen as a pro-Russian action.

Just on the eve of the resumption of the protest rallies the ruling party has published the results of the IRI polls which say that Saakashvili and the National Movement have far more support than any of their rivals. Of course the opposition have called these polls one sided and manipulated. Labour has said they are merely a vehicle for lobbying for Saakashvili, but all these factors taken together do demonstrate that there is less public support for protesting in the street than there was in spring.

However one thing has fallen into the opposition’s collective lap. The irresponsible behaviour of Tea Tutberidze has provoked the population in general to protest against her attack on Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. As Tutberidze is seen as a Government supporter and there is a general suspicion that the Government was in some way involved with this attack, despite its denials, the opposition can capitalise on the anger it has caused. In addition to this the opposition can also assume that social and economic problems will become more acute as winter approaches, and the Government will again be blamed for these if the public has any hope it can change things. So the winter of our discontent may still be what follows the glorious summer of official promises.