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Elections negotiations on the eve of frustration

By Messenger Staff
Monday, March 28
March 23 appeared to be a crucial date in the negotiations over the elections code. Two sides – the ruling party and the representatives of 8 opposition parties accused each other of frustrating the negotiations. The opposition eight made a statement where they stated that they are not withdrawing from the negotiations. However, they put forward a precondition which the ruling party must adhere to if they are to sit at the negotiating table again. The ruling party labeled such an approach as an unacceptable ultimatum which will only lead to further frustration of negotiations.

So the negotiations which started more than five months ago are today in deadlock. In October 2010, 8 opposition parties – New Rights, National Forum, Free Democrats, Conservative Party, Republican Party, Georgia’s Way, Christian-Democratic Movement and the People’s party submitted to the public and to the Parliament its vision and projection of how to conduct free, just and transparent elections and challenged the ruling power to set a dialogue over this issue with the purpose of introducing appropriate amendments to the elections code. The Eight expressed its concern over the situation in the country, mentioning that almost 20 years have passed since Georgia regained its independence but, despite this fact, the country has not become a democratic entity. First and most importantly, is that there is no precedent in the country to change the ruling power through democratic elections. Secondly, the political groups which represent the interests of the majority of the population are outwith the legislative or executive bodies, therefore, the major political processes tend to develop in the streets. Thirdly, in legislative and executive bodies there is only a very small opposition presence, if at all. Fourthly, the ruling power establishes a one party non-competitive governing system, based on the unfair election situation through using intensively administrative resources as well as police resources, exploiting its interests in media and state finances. Meanwhile the ruling power wraps everything in a democratic package. Elections of this kind bring a mood of frustration and disappointment in the general public and confirm the belief that no changes could be achieved in the country through democratic elections.

Such a background creates a pretty dangerous situation in the country. Unfortunately it confirms the opinion of those opposition forces, which believe that there is no possibility of conducting free elections in Georgia and that the ruling administration will do its best to manipulate these elections, therefore the idea of a democratic election which can change the governing power in the country, is impossible. So, the only alternative left is street actions and protest rallies, which can escalate into a revolution. The opposition however uses the term “peaceful revolution”, without clearly identifying what it means and how it is going to be performed. These more radically oriented opposition parties are criticizing the eight entities conducting dialogue with the ruling power, accusing it of participating in the game organized by the ruling administration. Meanwhile, as it was mentioned, more than five months have passed and it looks like nothing has changed so far. The ruling authorities seem to be quite satisfied with the existing election code and are prepared only to introduce some minor cosmetic changes. The ruling party has not touched on the fundamental and systemic problems which need to be changed. It looks like formal dialogue is needed by the ruling power first to wile away the time and then to report to its western friends that they had dialogue but yielded no viable results. Meanwhile the opposition eight still think that the dialogue with the ruling party is absolutely necessary and just the truth should be told to the West in order to explain to it that the ruling power wants to preserve its position through manipulations and demagogy. However the Eight under the circumstances does not exclude starting protest street rallies. The ruling authorities do not seem to be prepared to make concessions and it is unlikely that they will accept major demands from the opposition Eight, for which the most important thing is introducing biometric ID cards for the voters. It is suggested that the following scenario might develop – to break this deadlock the ruling power will announce snap Parliamentary elections, which will be held in a slightly better way than the previous elections, therefore it will be praised and supported by the Western friends of Georgia. But of course, this election will result in the victory of the ruling power National Movement again. This will be a scenario favorable to the current administration of the country. So the question remains – what will be the opposition’s next move under the circumstances?