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Burjanadze speaks with voters on facebook

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, February 13
Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement United Georgia, held an online conference with facebook users on February 10. Despite technical problems during the one-hour conference, she managed to answer questions from interested citizens.

Summarizing the recent meeting between the U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Burjanadze doubted further positive changes for the country, as she says Georgia has “such an anti-national president".

She also claimed that in the existing electoral environment, only the ruling United National Movement (UNM) has a chance to win the elections – but if people were more politically active, they could challenge the status quo. “If people would be more active, the government would have to make compromises,” she said, hoping that billionaire-turned-opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili will use his considerable influence to seek fair elections and not disappoint his supporters if he achieves power.

Burjanadze noted that when Saakashvili was first elected in 2004, he had the opportunity to lead the country to the right direction; now she believes that his governance hinders Georgia’s development. Unification of the country, a re-establishment of territorial integrity, and a solid democratic state are preconditions for Georgia’s entrance to NATO, all of which she believes Saakashvili cannot attain.

She also spoke of the opportunities Georgia had before the 2008 war with Russia. “I can name several NATO-member countries which have not only stable, but strategic, relations with Russia… But this chance was postponed for an unknown period [for Georgia] after 2008,” Burjanadze said.

Burjanadze served as part of Saakashvili's administration until 2008, and is adamant that any crimes committed by government officials should be investigated, and those found guilty should be prosecuted. She also noted that she wishes to see some officials exchanged with those wrongly accused who are currently in prison.

The former Parliamentary Chair says she has always hoped to change Georgian politics, but she does not believe that this was possible as a majoritarian MP. Burjanadze said she wants to challenge Saakashvili’s regime through “really free and democratic elections” and not through pre-election coalitions "grabbing" for one another's votes.

Any team which comes to power should, according to Burjanadze, respect different opinions, and unite politicians and society instead of dividing them. Unification of the country and restoration of relations with Russia can be achieved, she believes, through wise policy oriented towards national interests.

Denying accusations of Russian sympathies, Burjanadze says it is a falsely-affixed label on which Saakashvili has spent much money and energy. She maintains that her party has a “pro-Georgian orientation,” based on national traditions as well as Western values. She cites the protection of human rights, judicial independence, personal respect, and freedom of the press as Western values which her party respects, and which she believes are important to the national interests of every country.