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Opposition preparing for November 7

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, November 4
November 7 has been a crucial date for Georgia for decades. For over 70 years after the Bolshevik occupation began the date was celebrated by Soviet Georgia as the day of the Bolshevik Revolution. After the country regained its independence the date was forgotten, but November 7, 2007 gave the date a different connotation. On that day the Rose Revolution administration brutally dispersed a peaceful demonstration in the centre of Tbilisi and the opposition considers this a very important day in contemporary Georgian history.

The non-Parliament opposition in particular have been promising to commemorate the date, but as ever there is no concrete action plan for doing so. They have only declared that they will rally in the centre of Tbilisi on Rustaveli Avenue. How many people will come out into the streets is a challenge for both sides. The events of autumn 2007 demonstrated how serious the anti-administration sentiments among the public were and this took both sides by surprise. That’s why the administration used excess force on 7 November and thus damaged itself in the eyes of Western democracies, and that is why it then held snap Presidential and later Parliamentary elections. However neither of those elections brought desirable results for the opposition parties, who have always claimed that both elections were rigged.

The Saakashvili administration has managed to survive the Russian aggression of August 2008 and more than three months of protest rallies in the spring of 2009, and probably has not the slightest intention of giving up power. The opposition has lost unity and does not have a common action plan, so the administration simply needs to wait for the further moves by the opposition and then act accordingly, having no need to engage in any dialogue with a spent force.

The autumn protest actions the opposition promised were not, in the end, held. There is no assurance that population will go out into the streets in large numbers on November 7. The people have been frustrated and disappointed. They do not know what the opposition is doing, they do not know whom to follow.

Pollings carried out by different organisations show that the population is less enthusiastic about participating in protest actions and going out into the streets than it was in April. It is known that the impending demonstration on Rustaveli has been organised by NGOs, not political parties. Of course some parties have already expressed an interest and readiness to participate in it, but so far none has sought to lead it. Salome Zourabichvili has suggested holding a convention at which every political party will give its assessment of Saakashvili’s six year rule. This may be a useful exercise for the politicians, but if they are going to lead the people in a certain direction they should have gone through this process long ago, and shown everyone what they think is wrong and how they intend to put it right.

Analysts suggest that further developments will depend on the number of people who turn up at the November 7 protest. The opposition has visibly divided into two camps: one which supports street actions and another which is more concerned with fighting elections. Some think that there is no contradiction between these two modes of action. Zourabichvili for instance thinks that both can be part of a multi-faceted attempt to achieve the opposition’s objective. But the major problem for the opposition is lack of unity. There is a distinct division between the Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition; the non-Parliamentary variety still has problems, and this makes the administration feel pretty comfortable.

The street actions will use the same old slogans: Saakashvili must resign and snap elections must be held. However the opposition cannot hold protests for any length of time because they do not have the money to do so. Their other option, concentrating on the local elections, is not an easy one to take. The major contest here will be for Tbilisi Mayor, and if the opposition want to see one of their number elected to this position all the parties need to unite behind a common candidate. As they cannot even unite over whether to take part in these elections this is unlikely to happen, meaning that the administration candidate will win again. The opposition is finding out the hard way, and will increasingly, that simply saying you oppose Saakashvili does not mean you are anywhere near being an electable proposition.