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Mixed opinions on Rose Revolution

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, November 24
Georgia is marking 6 years since the Rose Revolution, at which several thousand demonstrators, led by then-opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, invaded Parliament and demanded President Eduard Shevardnadze’s resignation. The demonstrators and the opposition claimed that the November 2, 2003 Parliamentary elections had been rigged in favour of the Citizens’ Union of Georgia, the ruling party during Shevardnadze’s Presidency.

Shevardnadze resigned on November 23 after meeting the leaders of the opposition. The Rose Revolution triumvirate of Mikheil Saakashvili, Nino Burjanadze and the late Zurab Zhvania then took power.

The assesssments of the Rose Revolution offered by the Government and the opposition at this time are quite different. While ruling party officials hail the revolution for transforming Georgia into a democratic and corruption-free state, some opposition leaders say the Rose Revolution was a step back in Georgia’s development.

Georgia established itself as a state after the Rose Revolution, National Movement MPs said on Monday. "Georgia became a modern state, with a state apparatus and public institutions functioning according to legal norms. None of this existed before 2003 – they existed on papers but the reality was quite different," ruling party MP Davit Darchiashvili said. "From 2003 began the realisation of the dream of creating not a feudal or virtual and ethnographic oasis but a modern state," he added.

Darchiashvili said that it had been impossible to avoid some mistakes and "painful processes" during the six years of Rose Revolution administration rule. "Substantial changes were needed in all directions. Hundreds of smart and responsible people were needed to achieve this. It is natural that some of them would make some mistakes," he said, adding that "these were just mistakes, not reflecting the policy as a whole."

The Georgian State now has parameters very close to those of developed countries, Vice Speaker of Parliament Gigi Tsereteli said. "A lot has been done in recent years and these reforms are ongoing," he added. He named the war with Russia as one of the negative events during this administration's term, however he said that if Georgia had been a weak state the war would not have happened. "Our enemy was irritated by the fact that we are developing, that’s why they attempted to block our way; however they failed," Tsereteli stated.

The opposition has downplayed the Rose Revolution's achievements, saying that all Georgia has got from Saakashvili’s Goverment is "repaired roads and lost territories." Conservative Party co-leader Kakha Kukava criticized the Government for "rude" violations of human rights, a "censored" media and an "unjust" court system. "If we put on the scales the wrong and right things done since the Rose Revolution, the former will be much greater," Kukava said.

Republican Party leader Levan Berdzenishvili, who was an active participant in the Rose Revolution, claimed that "no serious positive results followed the revolution." He said that Saakashvili’s administration had failed to keep any of its promises. "The President promised to integrate Georgia with NATO and the EU, he promised to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity, however none of this has happened so far because Saakashvili betrayed the principles of the Revolution two months after being elected President," Berdzenishvili said.

Labour Leader Shalva Natelashvili summed up the performance of Saakashvili’s Government and demanded his resignation once again. He stated at a press conference that Saakashvili had toppled the previous Government by forceful and anti-constitutional methods with the help of foreign powers and corrupt groups six years ago. "During the Saakashvili years Georgia has been divided into three parts and the part not occupied has become a colony," he stated. Natelashvili said that society has to realise the need for a change of regime and echo the Labour Party's demands for the international, diplomatic, judicial and political isolation of the current Government. He also appealed once again to the international community to increase its pressure on the Georgian Government to ensure the usurping leadership surrendered without bloodshed.

Political analysts suggest that Saakashvili has yet to prove that the Rose Revolution was a revolution for democracy. There had been some positive and negative results of the Revolution, independent political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said. "The positive points are that the law is being respected more than before, and the state system has become stronger,“ he noted. However the August war was a negative event, which the Rose Administration "failed to avert."

Political analyst and former Education Minister Gia Nodia said that in general the Rose Revolution can be assessed as a positive event in country’s recent history. "The main achievement of Saakashvili’s administration is the establishment of proper state institutions, including the economic system, which is much better right now than it previously was," Nodia told The Messenger. He said however that the negative aspect of the current Government is that it has been unable to consolidate democratic institutions. "One of the indicators of this is that there is no agreement on the admissible rules of fighting for power, there is no trust in the electoral system," Nodia said.

President Saakashvili marked the 6th anniversary of the Rose Revolution by opening two bridges in the Shida Kartli region: one on the river of Lekhura and another in Igoeti. He also opened 25 kilometres of the Tbilsi-Senaki-Leselidze section of highway. He tested the quality of the road by driving several kilometres in a Formula 3 car. “This road leads to Sokhumi. I am sure that we will enter Sokhumi and the occupiers will leave,” he said.

Saakashvili also opened a new police department building in Gori. The President hailed the work of the local policemen, calling them “heroes, endangering their lives every day.”