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Targamadze: Opposition should take responsibility and get involved in lawmaking

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, April 11
First of all, I want to ask you a common question. I am interested in your assessment of the current Georgian political environment, and the role and function of the Christian-Democratic Movement within in.

The current Georgian political reality might be described in a sentence: this is a monopolized environment and media field. This is not the fault of Mikheil Saakashvili only; this is a post-Soviet inheritance, when the power was in the hands of one political party or team. Unlike this former period, there are effective government structures and bodies in the state, however at the expense of weakening Georgian citizens.

Saakashvili’s formula is based on state modernization, [and] we support this European modernization. The main difference between the Christian-Democrats and Saakashvili is that for him, modernization is both a goal and a result, while for us modernization means democratization as well. Without an effective and powerful civil society, the real development of the state is less imaginable.

The Christian-Democrats have several priorities. One is concerned with systemic changes, meaning constitutional reform. Power should not be held by only one political group... The problem is partially solved by the development of local self-governments, as we believe that local governments should take care of their own issues and not be ruled from the capital or from some other remote centre. Thus, the current Georgian environment is full of monopolistic elements and we, unlike some other political forces, often suggest ways to solve them, not just talk about the difficulties.

My second question is related to the new political player, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and how his entrance onto the political field has changed the situation. Was there a positive or negative effect on the political atmosphere? On the opposition?

I can say that at the beginning it was negative, however that was not Ivanishvili's fault. The current Georgian authorities have created... messianic attitudes that set up obstacles to a healthy political environment. Saakashvili, who inspires messianic attitudes amongst the public towards himself, has formed the view in the public that he and the regime might be opposed only by a mighty figure. Ivanishvili, who has serious financial resources, has awakened that messianic belief in the public that he might be the only who can oppose Saakashvili. If it was not Ivanishvili, there would have been some other like businessman, like Mindia Gulua,(a Georgian businessman in Russia) who expressed an interest in politics.

But interest in Ivanishvili would have been higher than that in Gulua.

Yes, Ivanishvili is richer than Gulua…

I do not mean only financial background. For example, if you have asked a group of Georgians about Ivanishvili, they would know his name, whereas Gulua might have been unfamiliar to them.

Well, those charitable activities carried out by Ivanishvili have created support among the public for him as well. That is why he must be granted Georgian citizenship.

Are you currently negotiating with Georgian Dream in any capacity?

We are not negotiating. However, we are interested in Ivanishvili's involvement in the elections and so we are ready to collaborate with all political forces. We may manage to negotiate and agree on some difficult issues with the majority, [but this] is not easy. It is more comfortable for us to collaborate with other opposition parties with whom we have much common.

You were one of those parties that decided to collaborate with the government on a new election code, unlike some opposition forces, which criticized your decision and considered the action treason. Based on the outcome of the negotiations and the new election code, do you think you make the right choice?

It was absolutely the right decision. We were brave and took responsibility for some real changes to the law and I think the new code is better and more progressive. There is no perfect election code; however we have tried our best.

So I always point to the fault of those opposition parties in the coalition of eight who changed their mind. We suggested to them that if they would have put pressure on the government to make the administration concede something, we would have supported them, however they only criticizing us during that summer. We made the decision [so] the government would not act based only on its interests, but that the opposition and the public would be written into the new code. Political involvement and taking responsibility is important.

Is the election code alone enough to carry out free elections in the state?

It is not enough of course; it is just one important part. The whole election process is important – how informed voters are and how freely they act. The government should only be changed in a peaceful manner.

How realistic is your plan to defeat the government through elections? What do you intend to do – run on your own or create a coalition?

I objectively estimate the situation and I think no particular opposition party can achieve this [winning alone]. We do not have the resources to enter Parliament as a majority party. I think that if the opposition acts together, collaborates with each other, does not oppose one another just only the government, there will be a chance... that can be taken as a serious step forward.

Do you engage in negotiations with other opposition parties on majority deputy positions?

We are absolutely open to such agreements.

Do you agree with the recent NDI survey results?

That research has always, more or less, reflected reality. Currently, there is a process of demythologizing Ivanishvili. In the survey conducted in the fall, Ivanishvili’s rating was high, as people at that time assessed him based on his charity work. Now, after making some decisions, people guessed that he is a politician who might make a mistake... so [the public] assessed him as a politician. It is a normal political process, thus I think that the outcome of the NDI [survey] was real and should be paid attention to. Stating that the results were useless is inadequate. We should always ask them to carry out such polling as often as possible.

You are a former journalist and you know how serious a role the media can play, especially during elections. How do you think, in a media environment such as the one in Georgia, the opposition will be able to deliver its message to the public?

It will be difficult, however everything needs effort. We are not radical towards the media and we always try to assist them in action, not in words. We are always open to journalists. Also, the monitoring of the media environment will start from June in Georgia, which is a very important fact.

What would you say to our readers?

First of all, I want to say that I am very thankful to them, as they regularly assist us in many ways. I hope that in the future, they will be as active a partner with us as they are now, and Georgia will also be their desirable ally.