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President Saakashvili’s future

By Messenger Staff
Friday, October 19
On October 1st something absolutely unacceptable for President Saakashvili and the United National Movement (UNM) happened. They lost the elections. Saakashvili and his party accepted defeat and declared that they would now become the opposition. Saakashvili has also promised that he will cooperate with the new government. So, now the situation is very intriguing: the outgoing ruling party is getting ready to become a strong opposition party. The President, who still holds considerable power, is simultaneously the leader of the opposition, a situation that potentially could exist for almost another year. However many analysts, politicians and indeed the general population are asking whether Saakashvili should remain President.

The UNM’s conceding defeat and expressing readiness for cooperation with the new government has been greeted enthusiastically worldwide. US President Barack Obama sent him a letter of praise and many European leaders have also expressed their admiration for Saakashvili’s concession. With the amount of congratulations Saakashvili has received it almost seems as if he had won. Georgian Dream members are not appreciative of this praise. During his recent meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Prime Minister-elect Bidzina Ivanishvili had some choice words to say about the Georgian President’s role in conducting elections democratically: “I explained to him that Saakashvili’s role in holding democratic elections was zero,” Ivanishvili said.

Saakashvili and his party’s claims of helping creating democracy in Georgia contradicts an increasing demand from the Georgian population to investigate in detail all the violations which were committed by the outgoing government. The population is demanding the creation of a truly independent judiciary to investigate and punish those responsible. More and more voices can be heard in Georgia calling for President Saakashvili to resign and not hinder the new government from implementing real human rights protection, free media and other essential values of a democratic society.

Observers suggest that the UNM is already trying to consolidate and organize a return to power. They also add that the President and his team’s recent actions have been obstructive for the incoming government. For instance, in the last few weeks Saakashvili has granted diplomatic passports to all his ministers, deputies, MPs and many others. He has recently also blocked the expense accounts of a number of government officials from becoming public. In addition the President has hastily appointed governors in different regions of Georgia and the UNM-controlled Kutaisi city council elected a new mayor. All of this might seriously impair Georgian Dream’s attempts to govern effectively. With this in mind Public Assembly has suggested that top level UNM officials should be disqualified from political activities for at least 10 years.

There is another argument for Saakashvili’s departure. The Georgian Constitution stipulates that the Georgian President is elected for a five year term. As Saakashvili was reelected on January 5, 2008 his second term expires in January 2013. If Saakashvili remains in office past January he will be in violation of the Constitution, something which Georgian Dream are certain to claim if he does so. Some analysts predict the office of president will simply cease to be valid in Janaury. What is certain is that Saakashvili will be under increasing criticism in the months ahead.