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Talk about possible unification

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, July 29
Despite the unusual heat in Georgia opposition parties are again actively discussing the possibilities of merging and creating new alliances. In effect, as in sport during the close season, transfer deals are being made.

The opposition are examining the possibility of holding protest rallies and looking for possible alliances. These subjects, and particularly unification, are always on the agenda but have very seldom if ever yielded any practical results. Analysts state that today it is unlikely that any grand opposition union will be formed. The administration and ruling party still dominate Georgian politics, and the non-Parliamentary opposition are like a boxer playing cat and mouse, searching for the weak points of their opponent.

The person most keen on creating a grand opposition union is ex-PM Zurab Noghaideli. He is conducting intensive negotiations with different parties, trying to attract as many to him as possible. However Noghaideli is exactly the person most of the opposition parties refused to unite with before the May 30 local elections due to his clearly pro-Russian position. Now some are saying that distancing themselves from Noghaideli was a wrong step. Irakli Okruashvili, the former Defence Minister and close Saakashvili ally now in exile in Paris, is often considered a potential partner of Noghaideli. In June the two met in Munich, and it is presumed that Levan Gachechiladze also attended this meeting. No details of their discussion are known, but it is not difficult to guess what those three would have talked about.

Some think that a grand opposition union is unrealistic. Traditionally Labour keeps repeating that it will not join any alliance until election time at least. The National Forum, which is quite influential, also does not plan to join any alliance. Maybe, as Ramaz Sakvarelidze suggests, it is waiting to see how much support it can gain before it decides its next move. If it sees that it does not have enough support to compete separately maybe it will agree to be part of a broader alliance.

Unification has become even more difficult because during the recent election campaign various opposition parties openly criticised each other, sometimes in a rather ugly way. Maybe this was all part of a brilliantly masterminded plot to divide and rule by the current administration. There are those who suggest that the parties can unite around a single topic, e.g. Irakli Alasania’s Our Georgia - Free Democrats suggest that creating a new election code might be such an issue. Other parties propose others, such as the new constitution which is in the process of being adopted. This draft has aroused particular opposition discontent because it gives President Saakashvili the green light to carry on leading the country as Prime Minister with increased powers. Some parties have demanded that a clause be inserted in the new constitution forbidding a President who has served two terms from holding any other public position, and the argument that this would be a violation of a retiring President's human rights is not accepted by the opposition, which can cite examples of similar clauses in other countries.

The idea of holding street rallies is contentious. Generally the population is fed up with rallies and it will take time for people to get psychologically ready to take such moves, as the rallies between the end of 2007 and the middle of 2009 used up a lot of people's energy and enthusiasm. To get the public going again the opposition need to modify, modernise and popularise their slogans and then pick the right time and mood to start street rallies. Even then, there is no guarantee that these will achieve anything if the public are asked to replace the current regime with a disparate group of parties whose ideological orientations remain very hard to fathom.