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Debates: to be held or not to be held?

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 24
Currently, the Georgian media is speculating about the possibility of holding political debates among the leaders of the various political parties. There is no tradition whatsoever of holding political debates among the parties in Georgia. Sometimes there are live debates on TV among certain political figures but not the leaders of the political parties themselves.

Currently, the leader of the opposition movement Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is challenging President Mikheil Saakashvili to a live debate at any place, with any format and at any time. Ivanishvili has supported his challenge with certain arguments. According to him, there are two major political forces in the country that are distinctly outlined: the United National Movement and the Georgian Dream.

Both of these entities have their distinguished leaders. Therefore, he considers it logical to hold debates with President Saakashvili only. In the case that Saakashvili refuses to participate in the debates, then Ivanishvili has expressed his readiness to debate with five to seven representatives of the ruling party, simultaneously inviting the members of parliament or government to debate with him. On the other hand, Ivanishvili excluded completely debating with any other opposition parties such as the New Rights, Labor Party, Christian-Democrats or anyone else because he does not consider these entities the real opposition; he refers to them as the pseudo opposition.

In response to Ivanishviliís challenge, the ruling United National Movement suggested that debates should be held between the candidates for the prime ministerís post and the first numbers on the party lists. So, as the ruling party election list is led by Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze and the current PM Vano Merabishvili is the candidate for the same position, these two could debate with Ivanishvili.

Ivanishvili did not agree to that, suggesting that only after the presidential elections in 2013, that if Merabishvili is nominated as the candidate for the PM, he (Ivanishvili) will hold a debate with him.

According to the constitution, after the October 1 parliamentary elections, the government and the PM should resign and President Saakashvili has to submit a new government team to the parliament to receive the vote of confidence from the legislative body.

Everybody in Georgia knows that after the 2013 presidential elections the new amendments to the constitution will be enforced, granting extra powers to the PM. However, today it is not clear whether Merabishvili will remain the UNM candidate for the prime minister or if Saakashvili be nominated for that position.

Meanwhile, Ivanishvili went further by stating that he wants debates with President Saakashvili and is ready to make things easier for him and promised not to touch the shortcomings of the presidentís conduct and speak only about the future prospects and development of the country.

The ruling party however, once again confirmed its position that Merabishvili is ready to meet with Ivanishvili in debates, as now there is no presidential election but only a parliamentary one.

The current configuration shows that it is unlikely that Ivanishvili will debate live with anybody. So far, this event has very little chance to take place. There is no mechanism in the country or the goodwill to hold civilized live debates among the candidates for any position at any level. This is regrettable.