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What can Georgia expect in the coming year: a crisis, elections or a revolution?2009-01-04 10:00
2008 was an especially tough year for Georgia. It started with a pre-election frenzy and a presidential election, which the opposition forces denounced as being falsified, and they declared Mikheil Saakashvili, who was elected president for a second term, to be an illegitimate president.
The election was followed by protest actions organized by the opposition, although they were not as radical and on such a large scale as those of November 2007. The people, who had become tired of categorical declarations that were usually not followed up by actions, did not readily answer their calls to gather for a mass rally. Furthermore, everyone remembered vividly how the government can deal with people who are disobedient: the suffocating tear gas, clubs, rubber bullets and streams of cold water erupting out of water cannons were imprinted on everyone's memory.
Passions had not yet subsided after the presidential election when the country began preparing for extraordinary parliamentary elections. And the opposition once again became active, even though they only had one stage left to put across their position - the small TV station ‘Kavkasia' which broadcasts in and around Tbilisi. Although the international community openly reproached the Georgian government for the lack of media freedom in the country, the regime did not try to somehow soften or change its policy concerning the main TV stations broadcasting throughout the country. The majority of the opposition parties declared the parliamentary elections, which took place on 21st May, to be falsified and illegitimate and refused to work in the parliament. Especially since the opposition's expectations were not met and the ruling party gained an absolute majority in the new parliament (119 seats out of 150). The Christian Democrats were the first opposition party to decide to enter parliament, declaring that they had no right not to use the parliamentary stage to fulfil the promises which they had made to the people. After them, two political forces broke away from the United Opposition: ‘Kartuli Dasi' and ‘We ourselves', whose leaders became deputies. Georgi Tortladze and Georgi Tsagareishvili left the former defence minister Irakli Okurashvili's party and also obtained mandates as deputies.
Initially, the United Opposition declared that every politician had the right to make their own independent decision about whether they wanted to work in parliament, but subsequently criticism of the parliamentary opposition intensified. Today the parliamentary minority, consisting of the two small "Christian Democrat" and "A Strong Georgia" fractions, are known as nothing other than satellites of the ruling party and a pseudo-opposition.
On the day when the newly elected parliament met for its first session, the leaders of the United Opposition came to the legislature and demonstratively tore up their deputy credentials in front of everyone present. The opponents of the regime announced their intention to create their own alternative parliament, but then the summer holidays came round and this intention remained unrealised.