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Saakashvili’s choice: applying force or concessions

By Messenger Staff
WEdnesday, May 25
The protest actions which started on May 21 have not left either side with much choice. Of course the heaviest responsibility for the developments lies with the ruling administration. They must now make a crucial decision whether to use force and disperse the demonstrations or make certain concessions.

As it was noticeable after the August 2008 Russian invasion, representatives of Georgian authorities have frequently visited different Arab countries to attract investments. Now it looks as though the only thing imported from the Arab world is the notion of revolutions after seeing the protests and promises of a ‘Day of Rage’. Using force is one of the choices which could very possibly lead to an Arab style revolution. So, the question is will Georgia’s ruling administration choose Gaddafi’s way or Mubarak’s one? Gadaffi stood firm and dragged his nation to disaster whereas Mubarak stepped down and may end up in prison. Or is there a third option?

Two revolutionary oriented opposition forces in Georgia's Public Assembly and the Georgian Party, have some serious differences and seem to have no chance to unite under one slogan. The other parties however remain primarily as observers and commentators.

The use of force in small measures and in specifically targeted directions was applied by the government previously in 2009. Such tactics are not open or vivid. Most foreign journalists or observers cannot see it but it is quite effective. These tactics mean attacking opposition activists when they are in small numbers. Near there houses either coming home or going out, beating them up, abducting, taking them outside of city and beating them up there, putting narcotics or weapons into cars or pockets of opposition activists and intimidating their family members and relatives are some of the known tactics. Generally this creates a situation when ordinary people even if they have sympathy towards the opposition will think twice before going and joining rallies, there is too much of risk – they can lose jobs and either they or their family members could be beaten. So the analysts think that for these reasons the number of protesters is not as big as it might be. Of course it could be added that a big portion of the population, although unsatisfied with the current authorities, are quite frustrated and disappointed with the conduct of the opposition. Firstly, because of their lack of unity but also they cannot see an emerging leader in whom they could trust.

So currently the situation is like that of the jungle. The tiger watches its victim, considering whether to jump on it or let it run. If the authorities see that the protesters start to use violence against the police this would be the green light for heavy handed police retaliation. However, so far the protesters have been reasonably calm. Only when the police try to attack the demonstrators do they respond adequately and counter attack. Some analysts think that neither of the sides are ready to retreat which is a very dramatic situation that could ignite civil confrontation. Some opposition members also think that the situation is close to explosive. Zviad Dzidziguri, one of the leaders of the opposition, thinks that the ruling administration should offer the opposition negotiations concerning fair elections. The parties who were from the beginning oriented towards conducting negotiations in regards of improving the election environment continue to highlight their position. Verbally, the ruling officials have confirmed their commitment towards such developments. But there are no visible moves in this direction. It looks like the authorities have been watching the situation and considers the relatively low number of protesters not to be a major threat. Now it is the turn of the opposition forces as to how the situation will develop on May 25, on the eve of Georgia’s Independence Day. And this is today.