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Loneliness of the ruling administration and the varied virtual opposition

Tuesday, February 15
President Saakashvili’s annual report to Parliament was followed by harsh parliamentary debates together with intensive discussion in the Georgian media and political establishment. It would be logical that as a result of the debates people should have a clear picture of the political state of the country as well as the Government’s chosen economic course. Moreover they should also at this point know the opposition’s possible alternative direction of development. However the situation is quite complex. On the one hand the ruling authorities claim there is no alternative course to the one they are pursuing, while the divided opposition has no clear-cut alternative proposals for the people or the ruling power.

During the parliamentary debates the ruling authorities repeated over and over that the country is performing well; what it is doing is the only possible way and the right way, therefore the Georgian population should support it and according to the government, they do. Therefore the conclusion is that the majority should stay in power and the government has good example of that – Singapore. The authorities have mentioned the tiny state as an exemplary country for Georgia several times – their ruling party has been governing the country for several dozen years there.

The President and his ruling authority love talking about the successes of their performance and leadership. They always claim that country has made many major achievements in different fields. However not only the opposition but several parts of the population are sceptical about the claims. There is a serious feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration. In these circumstances much depends on the efficiency of propaganda. The ruling majority uses the advantage of controlling countrywide TV networks, brainwashing the public and presenting virtual situations as reality, exploiting the best models of soviet-type propaganda.

Georgia claims western type democratic development so officially it cannot ban the opposition. However it tries and does its best to subordinate the opposition and control it or at least to manage to influence it. At best, to disable it. Meanwhile the opposition is divided into two main parts – the so-called radical/non-parliament/street opposition who support street action, rallies, disobedience and so on, while the other so-called constructive opposition think it is possible to achieve results i.e. remove the ruling power through elections provided there are appropriate amendments introduced to the elections code. Radicals however do not believe in the possibility of democratic and fair elections in Georgia.

President Saakashvili and his team say the opposition in Georgia is very weak. Of course the opposition has weakened since 2007-2009 when it carried out the powerful protest actions that the Saakashvili’s administration was nevertheless able to resist. Surviving these attacks gave the ruling power extra confidence, whereas the ratings of the fragmented opposition parties at war with each other fell to practically zero. Opposition representatives admit that they have almost been destroyed.

However there is one paradox. The ruling power thinks that a weak opposition equals a strong ruling power, but recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have showed that if the people decide to move they do not even need an opposition spectrum – neither in Tunisia nor in Egypt was there any strong organised opposition. From a political point of view this could be dangerous as without an opposition street masses could devastate the country’s statehood and it could become uncontrolled. This is the matter of speculation for Georgian political analysts and other responsible people.

Meanwhile the 2012 parliamentary elections are approaching, which may eventually lead to a regrouping of opposition forces. All opposition faces though seem to be fading and while they themselves do not think of giving up politics, the Georgian public is frustrated with them. However it is quite possible that a new leader could emerge with the situation changing radically. So maybe now a charismatic leader will appear, people will be excited and following him.

It would be better if the ruling power is able to hold the upcoming elections in a democratic manner so that parliament will be formed by representatives of various parts of the political spectrum; then the country would be able to develop smoothly. This will secure all sides – the state itself, the political system and the players. This is the challenge for the ruling power; however there is a great temptation to prolong their governing when the situation is not stable. The consequences though could be risky.