Okruashvili won’t go to jail24.05.2011 | 15:19
Sakartvelo is now going through events that every Georgian knows and understands very well with the air of revolution spread around central Tbilisi. People are on the streets - some with sticks, others with banners, others just part of the crowd. Everyone wants to overturn Saakashvili's regime. Mostly Tbilisians, not ideologically motivated protesters, make the crowd for nostalgia over real protest rallies. GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked Giya Nodia, a politologist in Georgia, about the force these people are driven by. Is it a start-up of a new revolution or just a sort of nostalgia for the time of noisy meetings?
new revolution or just a sort of nostalgia for the time of noisy meetings?
- Five thousand people at the beginning of the protest campaign. Is it a lot or a few?
- People are few, I think. They failed to unite many people. Even Nino Burdzhanadze acknowledged yesterday that the number of protesters is not sufficient for the opposition to meet political demands it comes forward with. There is another thing here. Georgia has not seen demonstrations for quite a time. And there are always enough dissatisfied people that willingly attend rallies. This time those who have been missing this kind of activity were glad to join in.
- Who does the radical wing of Georgian opposition rely on? What is their social basis?
- Presently People's Assembly has no specific electorate because it's a long time before the elections, and these protest rallies are not connected with elections. Generally speaking, they look out for circles in radical opposition to the authorities. It is striking that most of them are middle-aged people, or slightly older than middle age. Young people are comparatively few. Mainly, these people think that reforms that Saakashvili is pursuing degrade them into outcasts. They can't find their place in a new reality.
- How many people of this kind are there in Georgia?
- Approximately, nearly 10% of the population. This is a serious figure. This is quite enough to hold rallies from time to time. Yet, this quantity is not enough to come to power.
- It seems from the sidelines that Tbilisi and other regions that have higher living standards support the current leadership while poorer regions are more opposition-minded. Is it correct or are there other criteria of dividing the society into supporters and opponents of the current regime?
- I don't think things are the way you describe them. Poverty has nothing to do with that. Most probably it's vice versa. Socially speaking, the opposition is supported by people that had something and lost it as a result of reforms. It strikes that many artists and intelligentsia are among the opposition. And they are the backbone, basically. Maybe this is the best-off part of Tbilisi. But the opposition has much more modest support outside the capital. Poorer people and districts do not support the opposition while the prestigious downtown is opposition-minded.
- What will the Georgian Party add to the rallies when it joins in?
- More people, of course. People attend demonstrations because they completely dislike their government. Yet, personal sympathies and acceptability of leaders are important too. The Georgian Party is a force led by a number of well-known politicians. If they joined in the protest rallies, each of them can bring several hundreds of people, or even thousands. This is a rather serious make-weight after all.
- Can you say that the Georgian Party has its own weight in opposition?
- It depends on how you measure it. According to sociological polls, this party and Burdzhanadze's movement do not have serious support. But polls and demonstrations are two different things. And I think that real measurement of their weight is rallies, or - more correctly - ability to bring people to rallies. And the Georgian party has an advantage: they have more celebrated leaders that used to be popular once.
- Irakli Okruashvili's arrival expected soon is a mystification or can he really become the country's new leader?
- Now everyone is puzzled. This is Georgia's number one sensation. Will he come or will he come not? Remembering the story of not long ago when he was imprisoned, then released and his public repentance. Then he went away to France where he got bolder. Anyway he is not the man who will want to become a martyr coming to Georgia and sitting back to jail - unless he has changed completely. Besides, it is not clear how he will come. If he arrives by plane, he will be cuffed right in the airport. Apparently, the news about Okruashvili's return will give a new impulse to protest rallies; it will inspire people sick and tired of ordinary leaders.
- Do these events mean that Georgia is having a generation gap?