Different opinions, different celebrations
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, May 27
On May 25 the Georgian opposition stated that they would not hold street rallies on May 26, Independence Day, as originally planned. They described this volte-face as gesture of respect for the day and the Georgian Army, which was due to conduct a parade in central Tbilisi.
“Rulers change but the Army remains. Despite the fact that the defeated Commander-in-Chief holding a military parade is unacceptable for us, we are not going to attack the Georgian Army, therefore we will not hold street rallies on that day,” Koba Davitashvili, leader of the People’s Party, said. “We have nothing against the Georgian Army, we oppose Saakashvili’s criminal regime,” Levan Gachechiladze, leader of Defend Georgia, stated.
In the event the Georgian Government and the Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition parties celebrated Independence Day differently. Ruling party representatives attended the official functions commemorating the day, while a significant part of the non-Parliamentary opposition spent the day at Vake Park in Tbilisi, now officially known as Victory Park, at a meeting organised by veterans. Some of the Parliamentary opposition went to the official events, others to the veterans' meeting. The main Parliamentary opposition party, the Christian- Democratic Movement, celebrated the day in Kutaisi while conducting its election campaign in Western Georgia.
Almost all those gathered at the park of victory disagreed with the way the present Georgian Government celebrates Independence Day. Former Defence Minister Gia Karkarashvili stated, "May 26, should be a public holiday which invokes only positive emotions in each Georgian. It is a great honour for me to attend the celebration of the 19th anniversary of our independence, many of my comrades in arms have not been able to celebrate this day,” Karkarashvili said. “The best way to celebrate this great day would be to involve the Georgian people in these events, not hold military displays, this is a Soviet inheritance. We should all respect the Georgian Army, however I cannot say the same for the Commander-in-Cheif, Mikheil Saakashvili,” Zviad Dzidziguri, National Council’s candidate for Tbilisi Mayoral post, said.
Alliance for Georgia’s Mayoral candidate Irakli Alasania also attended the veteran’s meeting. "I especially congratulate the Georgian Army, our veterans and those families whose members have sacrificed their lives for our country on this day. I am sure that all the peoples living in Georgia will strengthen and unite the country by their common effort,” Alasania stated.
“The present Government has no moral right to organise a military parade on Rustaveli, as due to its rash policies the country is facing many threats. However we respect the Georgian Army and our soldiers, who have proved their devotion to Georgia many times. Saakashvili has managed to divide those who have fought, and are still fighting, for the country’s future and security. Some of those are marching on Rustaveli and the rest are celebrating the day at the park. We hope Georgia will one day have a worthy Government, interested in consolidating society and not splitting it,” members of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, stated.
At the meeting in the park statements about the upcoming elections were also made. Leader of Defend Georgia Gachechiladze stated that, "Saakashvili’s regime must be annihilated, and creating social and political unity is the most important way of achieving this. I cannot talk about our specific post-election plans, but regardless of the election results creating this unity is significant,” Gachechiladze said. Salome Zourabichvili, leader of The Way of Georgia which is part of the Alliance for Georgia, said, "Our first plan is to win these elections. I can see the people’s mood. Perhaps they do not believe we can win, but everyone knows that their duty is to vote. If they do, this will be the first step to victory. The Government will try to falsify the elections, but people will counter these falsifications by turning out to vote,” Zourabichvili said.