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Ruling party and opposition in search of action plans

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, December 1
Local elections are currently on the Georgian political agenda. Although it has not yet been officially confirmed the President has said these will take place on May 30. Some of the non-Parliamentary opposition parties have not so far made up their minds whether to participate in these elections or not. Georgia’s foreign partners and international institutions will also very attentively observe the forthcoming elections.

It is generally accepted that these elections will play a big part in determining the further development of democracy in this country. The opposition are split on tactics: one part intends to participate in them, the other to ignore them and concentrate on protest rallies. Some politicians and analysts however think that these two approaches complement each other, and therefore predict no confrontation within the opposition. Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili thinks that all the opposition parties have a common strategy, to change the administration, and how this is done is a matter of detail. Negotiations, cooperation and protest are all acceptable. However other analysts feel that the two different tactical approaches being taken are mutually contradictory. Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that the advocates of each tactic might confront each other at some time, particularly when the elections are approaching, as each will feel that the other is not behaving like a true opposition.

The part of the opposition which is presumably ready to participate in elections has conducted rather complicated and controversial negotiations with the authorities in an attempt to introduce necessary amendments to the election code. The major disagreement here has been over the rules for electing the Mayor of Tbilisi. The opposition is trying to create conditions in which a second round of elections will be necessary by demanding a higher threshold which no candidate will be able to achieve on the first ballot. This demand reflects the fact that the opposition will probably put up several different candidates for Mayor. The authorities however insist on a 30% threshold, hoping that by mobilising Government supporters and using administrative resources they can ensure that their candidate achieves this share of the vote and thus wins in the first round, which would most probably be the case with that threshold. Some opposition parties are countering this by suggesting that primaries should be held to select a common opposition Mayoral candidate, however not all the opposition parties are willing to participate in primaries and in any event it is to be expected that there will be more than 1 candidate from the opposition, exactly what the Government wants.

The more radical part of the opposition still insist on holding protest actions and obstructing the elections. The Georgian public is mostly election-oriented because the huge protest rallies which were held in Tbilisi and around the country for more than 3 months from April 9 have brought no results. The President and his administration are still there. The opposition need to adopt a more flexible format of protests, so that they will yield some results but not degenerate into revolution. Nobody wants events to develop in an unconstitutional way.

If the elections are rigged and the results do not reflect what people know they voted for this could push the pro-election opposition into the protestors' camp. This would create a very difficult situation for the administration. It is therefore thought that this time the authorities will be more sophisticated and use more precise methods of trying to achieve the results they want, so that there is little room for doubt about the election results. So far they are carrying out a very efficient election campaign, despite the fact that no elections have yet been officially declared, as we said before. It is trying to divide the opposition, buy off some opposition parties with concessions and discredit members of the non-Parliamentary opposition. Sometimes it calls non-Parliamentary opposition parties pro-Russian and sometimes it detains their members on spurious charges involving arms, drugs and corruption, as has become a tradition, creating minor problems for them initially but often turning them into bigger ones.

Both the ruling party and the opposition frequently appeal to the West. Many moves are taken on the basis of how the West is likely to react to them. The West, which always proclaims it wants to support Georgia and its people, therefore has a serious responsibility to ensure that no one prevents the forthcoming elections from being conducted fairly. The elections should be credible in the eyes of the Georgian population and also grant legitimacy to all those elected if our constitutional bodies are to continue to hold any respect in Georgia or internationally.