Georgian opposition between life and death29.05.2009 | 16:36
"A civil parade" instead of a military one, an unprecedented demonstration with 100 thousand participants, picketing railway - this is how Georgia celebrated the Independence Day this year. But May 26 2009 failed to become an epoch-making day, as the opposition leaders had promised. Moreover there is a split overhanging the ranks of the opposition. Will the schism subdue the protest wave or the country will keep burning with the fever of rallies? Georgy Khutsishvili, a Georgian politologist heading the International Center for Conflict and Negotiation, answered our questions.
After the show of mass protest on the Independence Day Saakashvili is not going to grab a pen and sign his letter of resignation - on the contrary he defiantly went to a soccer match in Rome thus demonstrating his neglect of the opposition and their demands. His opponents were puzzled: what soccer can be thought about with 20% of his land lost. But even this presidential show-off didn't pull the opposition together. The split is not the myth of the journalists who spoke about the opposition's suicide, neither is it engineered by the authorities.
"Actions for Saakashvili's resignation will be continued. However part of them will be joint and the other part will complement each other, - David Berdzenishvili, the Republican leader, a member of the Alliance for Georgia is quoted by Georgian media. The alliance's leader Irakli Alasania remarked that permanent rallies that had been taking place since April 9 "have already had their positive effect and now it's time to change their form and meaning". Alasania is convinced the best way out of the political crisis is negotiations.
Democratic Movement - United Georgia leader Nino Burdzhanadze is of a different opinion stating the opposition "is not going to take any step back". She stands for "active, radical but constitutional and peaceful methods of struggle for the president's resignation". Burdzhanadze believes "the dialogue with the authorities is senseless as the authorities take advantage of the dialogue to play for time and bring the protest wave down".
Freedom party led by Konstantin Gamsakhurdia as well as National Forum led by Kakha Shartava are going to purse the rallies according to their individual plan. They press for protests outside Tbilisi, in the regions of Georgia.
According to the sociologists the share of radically minded electorate remains high. As Vremya Novostey writes during the live public opinion poll on the prospects of struggle conducted by Maestro TV many respondents called for ultra radical actions up to blocking the airport in addition to the railway. It is time to change over to the offensive to make Saakashvili step down, a respondent said on the phone. Out of the first thousand of voters during the live broadcast and on the TV channel's site 85% called for "radical actions within the framework of the constitution", 10% for complete stop of rallies; the rest didn't know what to say.
Whose hopes will be fulfilled? Georgy Khutsishvili, Head of the International Center for Conflict and Negotiation believes May 26 has become a special day for the opposition. Powerful support of the people was demonstrated with the National Stadium completely packed. It is very strange that the opposition is not getting united but is heading for a split. According to the politologist it is the manifestation of the people's support that led to aggravation of contradictions that have always been there.
"The opposition's radical part wants to nail down the success and strive for victory that according to them will come very soon, - the politologist says. - The moderate opposition including me are convinced it's impossible to accelerate the process".
As a conflict expert Khutsishvili doesn't consider it a real split as the opposition body keeps pursuing a common goal for early parliamentary and presidential elections. All of them have distrust in the presidential form of government. "There is no split yet. There are serious differences in methods and approaches", - Khutsishvili states. The radical opposition urges negotiations on Saakashvili's resignation; the moderate part is ready to negotiate system changes that do not necessarily exclude the president's resignation and presidential and parliamentary elections.
Khutsishvili is sure it's pointless to wait for fundamental changes in the near future. His conviction is: for the negotiations the moderate opposition accepts the authorities must present a set of proposals. The six provisions that were discussed with the president at the first meeting are off the point, the politologist believes.
To the question whether the Georgian opposition will have a summer break, the expert replied there was no definite decision. On one hand if the radicals start blocking motorways and airports, the authorities might very well use force. This is the most unattractive scenario for the country, Khutsishvili believes. If the opposition rejects the actions above permanent rallies will anyway continue growing more intense.
Summer may see either radicalization or slump in the opposition activity.