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Frustration mounts as Election talks delayed yet again

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 24
The meeting on the improvement of the electoral environment between the opposition parties and the government was postponed yet again, on March 23. The majority representatives and oppositional parties have made their explanations for the postponement known.

The National Movement mentioned that the meeting has been put off at the request of the Christian-Democrats regarding the ministerial week in the parliament. Concerning the issue, member of the Christian-Democratic Movement, Levan Vephkadze stated, “we appealed to the moderator of the consultations (IFES) and told them that it would be hard for us to attend the meeting due to the Government’s week in the Parliament. They said the National Movement had some problems too. Consequently the meeting was put off, “Vepkhvadze said, adding that dramatization of the situation was not necessary.

According to the statement made by Parliament Speaker, Davit Bakradze, on March 23, “political debates have turned into national sport in Georgia.” According to him, the government aims to establish a dialogue format between themselves and opposition forces. As Bakradze said, there was a painful experience in the 1990s when the society refused to enter into dialogue with each other and a civil war broke out. Bakradze said that a full-scale consensus may not be reached regarding the electoral system improvement but there are certain efforts which can be made in this direction.

Following the delay to the meeting, oppositional parties made a common statement, where they mentioned that the “authorities use dialogue to lengthen the period which aims only at irritating the opposition, rejecting the process and denying real negotiations.” Based on this attitude, the opposition representatives stated that they are obliged to use adequate measures and state, “1. Without agreement with the opposition the Government will not be able to hold elections. If it is, it would be people’s fight with usurpator authorities and not elections. 2. We do not stop the process, and are ready to continue the negotiations if the authorities make adequate steps. 3. The adequate steps, for example, means making a decision on biometric registration of the voters and on election reform. 4. We are sure in the rightness of our decision and take responsibility for it. 5. The international community should assess the situation accordingly and assist Georgian people in holding democratic elections. “

“Our and the people’s patience have a limit. Either Mikheil Saakashvili concedes changes to the election environment or the situation in the country will be strained. Saakashvili is becoming the obstacle for the consultations; we demand that the authorities act seriously in the process, as we are not going to leave the consultation table.” Leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, said.

Regarding Bakradze’s statement that a full consensus between the authorities and opposition on the election issue is less likely, member of the opposition 8, Vakhtang Khmaladze , said, “a consensus on all issues is not expected. However there are issues which the opposition would not concede, particularly concerning election lists being based on biometric data of the voters.”