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Celebrating Georgian Independence Day

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 28
Georgia celebrated Independence Day on May 26. However, this year’s major events did not take place in Tbilisi; instead they were moved to Kutaisi. With Tbilisi left hosting a Made in Georgia exhibition, while the annual Independence Day military parade marched its way down the streets of Kutaisi, the celebration was not exactly a unifying experience, and created a sense of division within the country.

Last year on May 26, protest demonstrators in the capital of Tbilisi were beaten in front of the parliament building. The following morning, the parade went on as scheduled un-delayed. Exactly one year later, the parade and all parliament sessions are being held in another city in western Georgia.

During this year’s festivities in Tbilisi, the opposition was rather passive; they held an event in Tbilisi’s Trinity Cathedral commemorating the victims of the events of May 26, 2011. The ceremony was dedicated to the people who died, were beaten, were wounded, and those who were imprisoned after the ruling regime’s special operation to remove the protestors. The ceremony was held on the initiative of Nino Burjanadze, the leading figure of the last year’s rally. The current leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, also appeared at the church ceremony and he even expressed his condolences to Burjanadze which resulted in an enthusiastic reaction from those attending.

As for the parliamentary sessions taking place in the half-constructed parliament building in Kutaisi, some of the opposition members of the parliament boycotted the event. Only the Christian Democrats participated.

In fact, many observers said that May 26 in Georgia was marked by a feeling of anticipation, as on the following day, Ivanishvili’s coalition held a large rally in Tbilisi.

Overall, if one listens to the opposing sides, it could be said that there are radically different pictures beginning to appear. The ruling majority leaders are repeatedly talking about the great successes of the post-Rose Revolution policies, whereas the opposition highlights its failures and shortcomings – unemployment, poverty and the backsliding of democratic reforms in Georgia.

In the president’s camp, much time was dedicated to criticizing of the opposition- labeling them as pro-Russian. Generally, it was an attempt to frighten the population with the Russian threat on one hand, and demonstrating the country’s military potential on the other. The Georgian Dream coalition meanwhile put its bid on a protest rally for the next day.