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7 November - challenge for the country

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 9
On the second anniversary commemoration of the 7 November 2007 events many things could have been considered and reconsidered. Saakashvili and his administration present 7 November 2007 as a big mistake from which they learned good lessons, whereas the opposition consider it the beginning of the end of the Saakashvili administration.

On November 7, 2007, on the eve of the 4th anniversary of the Rose Revolution, Saakashvili was still in the fourth year of his revolutionary reverie and some sort of public action was psychologically expected from him, but the opposition had not been expected to take to the streets and protest outside Parliament in tents. Neither side was prepared for how things would develop. The initial protest was wearing down by 7 November 2007 but thatís when the Saakashvili administration used excessive force to suppress it, brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators and raiding independent TV station Imedi.

Some opposition members consider that this was a punitive act by the Saakashvili administration against the people of Georgia. It was not directed against political opponents only. The scale and form of the force used was arrogant and absolutely unacceptable in a country which claimed to be building a democratic society. The results for the Saakashvili administration were indeed dramatic. It received very serious criticism from its allies in the West and the USA. Saakashvili was forced to resign temporarily and call snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The Opposition is sure that both these elections were rigged, but by then the administration had recovered from the November shock and in 2008 Saakashvili was once again President with an absolute majority in Parliament.

Saakashvili did try to draw some conclusions from his behaviour and his manner of rule became a little bit more moderate, something accepted by Westerners as a victory for democracy in Georgia. The opposition however thought otherwise, but realised that the Saakashvili administration was not as easy to remove as they thought. The August Russian invasion and its results then united everybody, opposition and ruling forces, against the common enemy but as soon as the war was lost, Georgian territory was lost, human lives were lost and IDPs filled the country again the opposition took advantage of a further accumulation of public disquiet.

The culmination of this protest was in spring 2009, when for more than 3 months the centre of the capital Tbilisi was paralysed by continual protest actions. The opposition naively thought that Saakashvili would resign when he saw hundreds of thousands of people in the streets demanding that he do so. He did not resign, moreover the opposition split into different fragments. Some had already entered Parliament, Koko Gamsakhurdia did so later. Some became radical street campaigners, some agreed to participate in forthcoming elections.

But there are some things which are certain. The opposition is not going to continue to aggravate the situation and turn it into a civil confrontation. Most probably everything will move in the direction of elections. Amendments to the election code are currently being worked out. Our Western European friends and the USA are insisting on an improvement in the election situation, support for the free media and the bolstering of civil society institutions. But likewise the administration is not going to give up easily, and is conducting a very clever, well organised and perfectly designed PR campaign. Every single step taken by the authorities now has one goal only: to retain their power at any expense. Everything being done by the President or members of his administration is part of this well-organised pre-election campaign.

The authorities now control three TV stations, and a fourth, Real TV, which is openly pro Government, has just appeared. The opposition are still trying to consolidate the people behind them, but their disintegration discourages people. The November 7 protest rally organised by NGOs vividly demonstrated the oppositionís problem. Many political parties and opposition figures ignored it; there were not many people outside Parliament. It was no way to commemorate 7 November, and it remains an open question what sort of action there would have been had it been seen as a public rather than an opposition-inspired event.

Unless unity is achieved the opposition has almost no chance of achieving any positive results in the political struggle. The Government knows this, and is doing its utmost to split the opposition, but at the moment it hardly needs to bother, as the opposition is happily fragmenting on its own, leaving the people even more confused about what they really want.