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The patriarch warns that Georgia is at the end of its tether

31.03.2009  |  15:00

1/9/8/2198.jpegGeorgia has frozen in anticipation of the April rallies. Now people in Tbilisi reply to the question - how are things? - by saying: We're waiting for 9th April. At the same time, neither the regime nor the opposition intends to make any concessions. On 29th March the opposition presented its tactic for fighting the regime - to strive for regime change with their bare hands, without any weapons. The ruling majority warns: "the opposition is creating the threat that the political processes could get out of control". The situation in Georgia has become so strained that the most influential body, the Patriarchy, has got involved.


Until then, international bodies had called for the Georgian opposition and leadership to enter into dialogue. It was reported that the chairman of the Council of Europe's monitoring committee, Matthias Jorsch, even presented a plan for establishing a dialogue. The opposition agreed with the outline, but rejected any cooperation with the Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, to guarantee security during the protest action planned by the opposition for 9th April.

Whilst representatives of the majority have categorically rejected the possibility of holding early elections, the president has called on his opponents to join a dialogue. Nothing of the sort. The leaders of the Conservative party and the movement "For a united Georgia" responded with the strategy of fighting the regime "with their bare hands". One of the leaders of the Conservative party Kakha Kukava, as "Kavkazsky uzel" reports, declared that the opposition had no intention of holding a dialogue with the authorities: "This proposal is insulting for us and is not up for discussion".

The authorities are not concealing their displeasure. "The rhetoric of the radical opposition, which will not accept a dialogue with the authorities, is creating the threat that the political processes could get out of control," Georgi Gabashvili, a parliamentarian from the ruling party, made this statement on 30th March. The position adopted by some of the opposition parties presents the risk of unrest, Civil Georgia quotes Gabashvili, and "following this unrest they themselves won't be able to control the situation. That is the main threat which has emerged today."

The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II has had to get involved with his authoritative words, and he thinks that the situation in the country is approaching a critical juncture. At his Sunday service, he personally presented worshippers with the text of the statement released in the name of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In it, His Holiness called on the opposition and the country's leadership not to use force on 9th April. Ilia II has long since become a bastion of hope for the Georgian people in difficult times. It was he who appealed for the "triumph of reason" when the Rose Revolution was threatening to break out, reconciled the authorities with the opposition in November 2007, and appealed for peace during the August events.

Georgian political commentators are recommending that politicians should note down the Catholicos' every word. Hence Soso Tsiskarishvili says that Ilia II embodies the aspirations of the Georgian people, and is not only a spiritual leader, but also a marker of wisdom. It is no coincidence that, according to a survey carried out by the weekly Kviris Palitra, Georgians acknowledged the Catholicos-Patriarch as the person of the year. Incidentally, seven (!) times fewer respondents expressed their preference for Mikheil Saakashvili.

The statement released by Georgian experts, who last week also called on the political opponents to enter into dialogue, emphasized that everyone needed to pay attention to Ilia II's opinion. So have the regime and opposition responded to the appeal by Georgian experts? This time will politicians hear the Patriarch's appeal? The Georgian analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze (whose signature can also be seen on the experts' appeal - I.P.) has answered some questions posed by your GeorgiaTimes correspondent: "There has been no reaction to our statement either from the leadership or from the opposition. But we weren't hoping that the parties would immediately meet each other half-way." The political commentator thinks that both sides will recall the need for dialogue before 9th April and in order to avoid bloodshed, they will have to look for compromises. In his opinion, at the current time the Patriarch is the national leader. Will he be able to prevent a violent civil confrontation? "I hope that the situation does not get that far and that reason, legality and justice will triumph in the country," concludes Ramaz Sakvarelidze.

Irina Ptashkovskaya


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