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Punishing Tbilisi

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 25
On May 26, Georgia’s capital Tbilisi will not host the country's traditional military parade in celebration of Independence Day. Georgian military units will instead march in Kutaisi, where under the initiative of President Mikheil Saakashvili, a new Parliament will be inaugurated. In Tbilisi that day, in front of the old Parliament on Rustaveli Avenue, Georgian-produced goods will be exhibited and sold.

After the parliamentary elections this fall, the institution of Parliament will be entirely moved to Kutaisi. Saakashvili has called that city the "Parliamentary capital" of Georgia, although no such term exists in the Constitution.

Commentators, analysts, journalists, and everyday people have asked why Parliament was moved from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, and so hastily. Some believe that is it in "memory" of last year’s brutal dispersal of protestors in front of Parliament on May 26. Crowds were removed so as to ensure the parade could occur. This year, with Parliament and the parade in Kutaisi, Saakashvili has tried to avoid the complications of holding the event in Tbilisi – and, at the same time, is punishing the city.

Some people have complained that a day dedicated to Georgian independence has been reduced to a shopping event in the centre of the capital.

The administration has given a challenge to opposition protesters. Will they go to Kutaisi, or hold a counter-event in Tbilisi? Will they try to occupy Rustaveli and hinder the industry event? With this decision, it is not just the opposition that the administration is trying to rile – in same ways, it is challenging its supporters, too.