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Presidential report inspires heated debate in Parliament

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 1
The debate that followed the President's annual report to Parliament Tuesday evening was, in the words of many commentators, heated.

In an interaction between President Mikheil Saakashvili and opposition MP Jondi Baghaturia, the latter man was referred to as "stupid" and "a fool".

Baghaturia had accused Saakashvili and his family of owning a series of businesses, including balneotherapy resorts. Saakashvili responded that his father is a director at a resort, not its owner, and then advised Baghaturia to visit the spa as it is "useful for healthy and normal thinking". The President also suggested that the MP indulge in a mud bath, as "rolling around in the mud is your natural state". After his verbal confrontation, Saakashvili left the room for a short period.

Leader of the Christian-Democrats, Giorgi Targamadze, asked the President to outline his future political plans, but was left disappointed by the explanation that Saakashvili does not yet have a post-2013 strategy. Targamadze cited this as a serious concern, as "if the process continues this way, which was promoted by the President by making his future vague, the situation will deteriorate and the electoral process will be unhealthy".

Fellow Christian Democrat, Magda Anikashvili, called attention to the healthcare system. Her colleague, Giorgi Akhvlediani, counted off reasons why the ruling United National Movement should not stay in power, emphasizing a lack of protection for human rights.

In response, Vice Speaker and government MP Mikheil Machavariani noted that the opposition always talks about the headache, not the painkiller.

Fellow government representative Nugzar Tsiklauri also criticized the opposition, identifying specific members (Targamadze, Gia Tsagareishvili) as "ungrateful", and calling Baghaturia "an ethnographic rarity – useless". Tsiklauri also touched upon the growing opposition coalition Georgian Dream, asserting that it is "a Russian dream and not a Georgian one".

The leader of New Rights, a non-parliamentary party, also emphasized the importance of Saakashvili's retirement from politics. "The most important question regarding Saakashvili’s future plans is still open,” Mamuka Katsitadze said of the debate.

Georgian Dream commented on the report and debate. Spokesperson for the movement, Maia Panjikidze, said, "Saakashvili was split from reality during the debates. When he talks about a democratic state, he must not forget that such a state includes a powerful opposition. By insulting the opposition, he insulted those Georgians who support the opposition".

Political analyst Mikheil Tavkhelidze says the opposition went into the debate unprepared. "With the existence of this kind of opposition, I would not be surprised if the United National Movement stays in power for several years".

Fellow analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili thinks the problem lies with the President's speech. "[Saakashvili] repeats one and the same [thing] all the time and nothing was new there". As for the opposition, Tsiskarishvili believes that their speeches were substantial, but "the process of debate turned destructive, as the mood was like this: 'Nothing will change in the state unless Saakashvili wishes it'".

Ramaz Sakvarelidze, also a political analyst, disapproved of Targamadze's question about the President’s future plans. “It was the wrong question and that the politician did not answer him was right. There are several months ahead, parliamentary lists have not been stipulated, and all the parties – including the United National Movement – don’t know their strategy for the elections. So Saakashvili had every right not to answer such questions and he didn’t".