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Two conflicting groups in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, November 16
While on a state visit to the Czech Republic several days ago President Saakashvili stated that he represents a country with two governments. This statement reveals to the world (and particularly to Georgia's western allies) the power play going on between the two main political parties in the country at the moment.

Georgian Dream (GD) swept into power after its stunning win in the parliamentary elections on October 1st, thus confining the United National Movement (UNM) to the role of the opposition. The new government is Georgian Dream's government. Georgian Dream's leader Bidzina Ivanishvili is now the Prime Minister and all the ministers are Georgian Dream members as well. However, Saakashvili is still President and thus the UNM still exercises a considerable amount of power. The President enjoys the right to appoint the Chief Justices of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, the Chief of Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces as well as regional governors. The Chief Prosecutor is a Saakashvili appointee and Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava is a prominent UNM member as well. In fact most of the local governments in Georgia are UNM-controlled. Most crucially President Saakashvili has the power to dissolve Parliament after six months and call new elections.

There are rumors floating around that Saakashvili is planning to do exactly that. According to this scenario after six months of GD and the UNM awkwardly sharing power the country will have reached a crisis point. The President will use this as an excuse to dissolve Parliament and call new parliamentary elections. The UNM hopes that enough of the electorate will have become frustrated and disappointed by Georgian Dream that they will vote for the UNM again, thus returning them to total power.

The UNM left a messy situation for the new GD government to clean up. Most importantly the economy is stagnant. About half of the population is unemployed and living below the poverty line. The agricultural sector and industry are in decline and pensions are less than the minimum cost of living. GD in its election campaigning gave generous promises. As winter approaches people will demand that the cost of electricity, gas and other utilities be lowered. They will demand higher pensions. The new leadership has to respond adequately to these demands. And the demands keep accumulating. Just a few weeks after the new government took charge strikes across Georgia began. The port employees at Poti were on strike for several weeks, significantly affecting Georgia's import and export capabilities. Just a few days ago the Tbilisi bus drivers went on strike paralyzing the transportation system of the capital for some days. There was a minor strike at electrical distribution company Telasi. Miners in Chiatura and Tkibuli are still on strike, demanding higher wages and safer working conditions. Students of several universities are also striking with various demands. Many individuals who claim unfair dismissal from their places of work during the previous administration demand justice. One of the striking bus drivers said: “We are not slaves, we want normal conditions at work.” A common response to this has been: "You were slaves for last 9 years and you just woke up a month ago."

Some have suggested that the UNM is behind all these strikes and problems and is in fact trying to create discontent and bring the country towards a crisis. However, so far no one has brought any proof of these allegations to light.

The new government is still optimistic. On one hand it is trying to lead the country forward and at the same time is seeking justice against those officials who have been accused of violations and abuses during the previous administration. Time will tell what will happen.