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President’s speech and steps for cohabitation

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, February 11
President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the nation from his presidential palace, amid violent protests in front of the National Library and after his originally planned speech in parliament was postponed on account of Georgian Dream members.

Saakashvili expressed his regrets that the Georgian Dream refused to listen to his speech in the Parliament.

“Independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, democracy, prosperity and Europe...” these are the simple principles on which the “national project of Georgia” is based, Saakashvili said on February 8. He explained that he is proud of the project and says that none of the parties has the right to destroy it.

According to the president, despite it still being occupied by Russians, Georgia has undergone “spectacular progress” and the last two decades have seen the rebirth and renewal of Georgia as a “free, independent and European nation.” Though it was not “a journey without mistakes and setbacks,” he cautioned.

“Yet, in the face of invasion and occupation, we have maintained and developed our state and our democracy. We have made political, social and economic progress that has astonished our region and beyond our region, the world we aspire to join: the Western world,” Saakashvili said.

He accused the new government of cancelling many projects and hence, hampering the development of the country. Saakashvili once again asked the Georgian Dream to cooperate, saying that there are four key issues that should unite them:

“First, Georgia should be a sovereign, independent state… a state that will have a Euro-Atlantic integration positioning and commitment.

Second, Georgia should be a constitutional democracy, where we abide by the will of the people and place laws and independent institutions above parties and leaders.

Third, Georgia should be a civilized society, where citizens can live their lives without being afraid of criminals or gangsters, without fearing that corrupt figures will seize their property or the public resources that flow from their taxes.

Fourth, Georgia should be a country where people are free to pursue their own livelihoods, a country that rewards hard work, innovation and entrepreneurship, a country where everyone is offered an opportunity to succeed.”

The president offered to work together on democratic progress and foreign policy, which should lead the country to Euro-Atlantic integration. He offered to start a dialogue with the Prime Minister and his team.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili released a written statement late on February 9, commenting on the president's speech. The statement says that the PM had noticed “a few noteworthy details in the presidential speech.”

“Had he made some of these statements earlier, we would have avoided some complications,” Ivanishvili said in his official statement, speaking about the part of the president's speech where he apologized to the people for the mistakes he and his government had made throughout the years. The PM confirmed in the statement that he is “willing to maintain relations with the president and his political team in full compliance with the constitution and the principles of the rule of law.”

As a reply to the PM’s comments, the president's official web-page published a new statement from Saakashvili once again offering Ivanishvili and his team to start a dialogue in order to find a consensus on the upcoming constitutional amendments. “We can sit down as soon as Monday and discuss such topics as the constitutional amendment and other important initiatives that require a consensus,” Saakashvili said.

Georgian Dream member Tedo Japaridze, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of Parliament, welcomed the president's initiative to start a dialogue and hoped for the actual results to be achieved. MP Viktor Dolidze has a different opinion and doubts that the president has been sincere in his statements. Dolidze confirmed with journalists that the Georgian Dream Coalition is ready to start a dialogue with the president and his team and achieve a consensus on important issues, whether these will be constitutional amendments or foreign policy.

Independent experts also welcome the possible dialogue between the president and the PM and their teams. Political analyst Nika Chitadze said the president’s statement is a clear sign of his readiness to cooperate. According to Chitadze, starting a dialogue will create a positive precedent of cohabitation between parties that are political rivals.