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The public divides as the elections draw near

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 10
The situation in the country less then one month before the local elections is becoming very tense. It looks as if it could deteriorate further if decisive steps are not taken to prevent this.

In the last couple of days several political, ideological and physical confrontations have taken place involving police, journalists, university students and the general public. The parties involved seem to be behaving thoughtlessly, not thinking of the possible consequences of their actions and ignoring the wider needs of the state.

Things became very tense when state officials confirmed previous rumours that May 6, which is usually celebrated as St. George’s Day in Georgia, would be officially known as Police Day. The opposition protested, saying that firstly May 6 had always been set aside for an important religious celebration and secondly clashes had occurred in front of the Tbilisi police department, in which several people had been wounded and some protesters blinded, on that day last year. For the opposition this date symbolised police violence against peaceful demonstrators.

Former Public Defender Sozar Subari stated that taking such a step annoyed the population. The opposition wanted to disrupt the parade of 4,000 police officers in front of the Ministry of the Interior but the Saakashvili administration circled the building and the surrounding area with well trained police. TV viewers saw stones being thrown, people being wounded and further violence.

Some media outlets reported that the first stones were thrown by people in civilian clothes standing behind the lines of police. But whoever was guilty of casting the first stone the consequences were not pleasant at all. The opposition called the parade a provocation but state officials said that there is nothing wrong in declaring St.George’s Day Police Day.

Just a few days later the stand off between Government and public took a further ideological spin, and again there was a religious aspect to this. The board of the Ilia Chavchavadze University agreed to host the launch of a book by a certain Erekle Deisadze containing multiple insults and humiliations of the Orthodox Church and its saints and teaching. This clearly provocative act caused the utmost irritation and indignation among the religious people in the capital, which as always took on a radical and uncontrollable character. The Union of Orthodox Parents and the Public Orthodox Movement organised a rally in front of the university which resulted in a clash between supporters of both sides. Supporters of the subversive book then organised a counter rally of their own, saying that the defenders of Georgian Orthodoxy were violating the principles of freedom of speech and expression, but this was seen as another provocation. On Friday evening during a debate programme on independent TV station Kavkasia involving supporters of Georgian Orthodoxy and the subversive book a group of pro-Orthodox gathered outside the station and tried to enter the building, threatening and beating supporters of the other side, journalists and cameramen.

So the situation is aggravated. If all these things happening at once is a coincidence that is bad enough, and could have serious consequences, but if they are part of a campaign masterminded somewhere this could be even more dangerous. In addition to this, the opposition will most probably accuse the authorities of rigging the forthcoming local elections, and maybe not without cause. This accusation could also lead to extremely dangerous and dramatic developments taking place.

When there is threat of such things happening in a family the head of the family takes responsibility and tries to calm the situation through his influence and authority. The state should be more reasonable and do its best to ensure that events do not develop in an ugly way.