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A rally of unfulfilled hopes?2008-11-12 09:42
The action organized by Georgia's opposition for 7th November had been announced both in the Georgian, Russian and foreign media. The anniversary of last year's November events, when the riot police broke up an opposition rally using truncheons and gas, was threatening to develop into another political confrontation in the country. But this time Tbilisi managed to get by without experiencing any excesses.
The opposition carried out their duty - they held a rally for about three hours by the parliament building and made their customary demands until they were blue in the face: to place the country onto the rails of democracy and to re-elect the president ahead of schedule. The monologue from the regime's opponents did not, however, turn into a dialogue with the authorities. Only the mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava and several parliamentarians went out to the people, assuring them that "the events of 7th November last year demonstrated the need for dialogue". An opposition member's call for everyone to shout out "Georgia above all" three times did not engender much enthusiasm among those attending the rally. Harsh speeches did not "wind up" any of the 10 thousand
people who had gathered, unlike last year when a crowd of the same size standing in the square ecstatically chanted: "Long live Georgia!"
This time the rally's organizers left peacefully, but they promised to return: firstly on 23rd November, on the fifth anniversary of the ‘Rose Revolution', and then until spring or summer, carrying out a permanent protest action until Saakashvili resigns. So, have the hopes of Georgia's opposition been dashed?
There is probably no simple answer to this question. Having taken such a difficult path and having banged their heads and been caught three times with the same bait, perhaps the opposition forces have understood that politics is not decided on the street and that radical measures only lead to more problems?
Admittedly, this time the opposition used the PR-technology previously employed by the ‘Rose Revolution' leader. If last year Saakashvili accused practically all his opponents of having "close relations with the Kremlin", then this year he himself was given the same slap round the face. At the rally, the slogan "Stop Russia, stop Misha!" appeared for the first time. The leader of the New Right party declared: "Today Georgia has two enemies - Russia and Mikhail Saakashvili, thanks to whom our country became embroiled in a war and lost territory". He also reacted to the call made by representatives from the authorities for the Georgian people to unite. "Unity," said Gamkrelidze, "is only possible if Saakashvili returns the ‘Imedi' television company to its lawful owner, releases political prisoners, abolishes censorship of the media and calls an early election."
One of the leaders of the United Opposition, the Conservative Zviad Dzidziguri likened Saakshvili to a "barrel of explosives". He added that neither America nor Europe needs him, and his position only genuinely suits Russia.
For the time being Mikhail Nikolaevich has refrained from making any comment. Only one of the leaders of the parliamentary majority Mikhail Machavariani has once again called for constructive dialogue and reiterated that the authorities are willing for this, whatever issue is discussed.