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Question remains over Independence Day format

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 17
After Georgia re-established its independence in 1991, it was decided to mark Georgia’s Independence Day on May 26. This date corresponded to Georgia’s original declaration of independence established over one-hundred years ago after the collapse of the Russian empire in 1917.

Some suggest however, that Independence Day should be marked on April 9 when the independence act was signed for the second time and Georgia declared its independence again in 1991. So far May 26 has been the designated day and it looks like the tradition will continue.

During the Rose administration May 26 was celebrated in Georgia with large events often featuring a military parade on Rustaveli Avenue in front of the parliamentary building received by Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The Georgian Dream coalition, which represents Georgia’s current government, has not yet decided how to celebrate this date. Opinions differ among coalition members on this point. Recently, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili announced his opinion, suggesting refraining from staging a military parade. According to Ivanishvili, Georgia is not the type of country should demonstrate its military might in such a fashion.

Some high-ranking authorities support this idea. For instance, Minister of Reintegration, Paata Zakareishvili, also believes that a military parade is not necessary, as it is a Soviet tradition. Others also think that a military parade is a costly event and it would be better if Georgia would spend these resources on other more pressing things.

There is also one controversial aspect to staging a military parade. If this type of parade is held, the commander in chief of the armed forces should receive it and that would be Georgia’s soon to be outgoing President, Mikheil Saakashvili. This fact would not be appreciated by the current leadership of the country.

There are many arguments for not wanting Saakashvili to receive the parade. First of all, there is the failed war with Russia in 2008. Many politicians and analysts believe that Georgia’s involvement in the provocation and the subsequent loss of the war along with more sovereign territory; represents a direct failure of the previous administration led by Saakashvili. Moreover, there is one shameful occasion connected with celebration of the date. On May 26, 2011, Georgian police and other law enforcement bodies brutally dispersed a peaceful demonstration of Georgian citizens in front of the parliament building organized by opposition leader Nino Burjanadze. Three people died in this vicious melee.

That being said, May 26 celebration along with the usual military parade was held near the new parliamentary building in Kutaisi last year. However, some Georgian political leaders feel that the overt display of the country’s military might should be demonstrated as the utmost pride of the nation.

It is known that the celebration will be welcomed by prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, as for Saakashvili, he will not have a separate invitation, but can always come anywhere he likes on his own. Saakashvili personally condemned the ides of not holding a military parade. So the exact format of Georgia’s Independence Day is not yet known. Much depends on the consequences of April 19 when the former governing United National Movement (UNM) is planning to hold a rally of their own, again on Rustaveli avenue in front of the parliament building.