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Saakasvhili's closed-door meeting prompts speculation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, April 12
President Mikheil Saakashvili held a closed-door meeting with majority representatives at the Presidential palace Wednesday.

Although the reason for the meeting was not publicized, United National Movement (UNM) MP Goka Gabashvili said that the lawmakers primarily discussed healthcare and agricultural issues. "Healthcare programs were discussed in detail – all pensioners will be insured this year. The meeting also concerned agricultural issues, irrigation systems, and ongoing projects across the country," he said.

Gabashvili noted that Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship was not discussed at the meeting, but affirmed previous government statements that the billionaire will be able to take part in political life.

Members of opposition forces criticized the meeting, casting doubt on the idea that a closed-door session was necessary to discuss social issues. "The authorities are trying to preserve power with all possible means,” Voters’ League representative Kakha Mikaia said.

Commentators note that the government, as of late, has been concerned primarily with constitutional issues, such as the proposal to lower the minimum age to serve in Parliament to 21, and to grant electoral participation rights to any EU citizen who has lived in Georgia for ten years or more. Both of these initiatives were put forward by the parliamentary minority Christian-Democrats, the latter in support of Ivanishvili. Christian-Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze noted that the change would enable Ivanishvili to take part in elections with the same rights granted a Georgian citizen.

Tina Khidasheli, a representative of Georgian Dream from the Republican Party, told The Messenger that the party does not approve of CDM's plan, as it continues a precedent of allowing the Constitution to be amended at one man's will. However, she admitted that Georgian Dream operates under the law as written and if such a change occurs they will act on it.

Political analyst Malkhaz Chemia claims that the real author of the law is the administration itself, in order to popularize the government's European integration agenda, restore Ivanishvili's political rights without admitting they were in error stripping him of his citizenship, and enable UNM supporters in Europe to fully participate in Georgian politics. He calls the Christian-Democrats traitors for collaborating with the UNM.

Zurab Abashidze, also a political analyst, says it would be best if the opposition and the government were able to agree on campaign rules before the election. "Both sides would profit, the international community would be satisfied, and some excesses would be avoided".