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President calls snap elections “unacceptable”

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, June 8
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has reiterated the ruling administration’s position on snap elections, calling them “totally unacceptable” and saying that the Government will not bow to pressure from the streets to hold them. He said this at a meeting with Avtandil Demetrashvili, the candidate for Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs on June 4.

“Considering the economic situation and the fact that the country had several elections last year, holding any kind of national snap election is totally unacceptable,” Saakashvili said. “I think everyone is now convinced that the Government will not make decisions on the basis of pressure from the streets. On the other hand, dialogue and consideration of the interests of society are very important in achieving civil peace and unity,” he added.

Avtandil Demetrashvili, whose Commission is being boycotted by most of the opposition parties, presented Saakashvili with a draft document outlining the proposed membership and terms of reference of the Commission, which the President must sign before it can come into effect He said the President had shown interest in his initiative to establish a two-chamber Parliament. “The President said that the idea of a two-chamber Parliament has prospects,” Demetrashvili told journalists after the meeting. Demetrashvili said that President Saakashvili had promised that the Government would not pressure the Commission.

A day after the meeting the President criticized his ex-allies Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Noghaideli. Speaking to workers at a newly-opened tea factory in Martvili, Samegrelo region, Saakashvili said he had dismissed former Prime Minister Noghaideli because he had some doubts about the “effectiveness” of his work and his “honesty”. The President said Noghaideli “unfortunately” has a lot of money and that some of this was made during Saakashvili’s Presidency. “Noghaideli took advantage of his position and is now trying to blackmail the Government with this money,” Saakashvili said. As for the ex-Parliament Speaker and now leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze, the President stated that Burjanadze had tried to promote her relatives and friends at the Parliamentary elections of 2008 by including them in the National Movement list. Saakashvili said “nobody should have illusions” that being in the opposition will be an excuse if it is revealed that they had “snatched” something while in government.

Noghaideli dismissed the President’s allegations, saying that he gained his money from business, not being in government. “It is possible to investigate and study this. There is no need to threaten me. No one can make me scared. I will use the money gained from my business activities to remove Saakashvili,” the leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia said. “Saakashvili is hysterical because he knows that my party is getting stronger and will be ready from September to win elections. I left the Government 2 years ago, so why did he make that statement today? Because he sees clearly that we are getting stronger and preparing to come into Government,” Noghaideli stated.

While political analysts say Saakashvili is apparently trying to “take the initiative into his hands” and take the advantage of the opposition’s temporary pause, the non-Parliamentary opposition has assessed the President’s statements as “comic” and “inadequate”. “It is obvious that the President is leading the country into a more radical standoff, perhaps even revolution,” Eka Beselia from the Movement for United Georgia told The Messenger. “He created the street politics himself by rigging the elections,” she added.

At the meeting at the tea factory the President also said that he has information that Georgian “criminals” usually described as businessmen, living abroad, including Bondo Shalikiani, Tariel Oniani and Alexander Ebralidze, are funding attempts to foment unrest in Georgia. Beselia responded to this by saying that Saakashvili was “lying” and not supporting his words with any proof. “Shalikiani organised Saakashvili’s election campaign. There has been a lot of talk about the President’s close links with crime bosses. Ex-President Shevardnadze once said that Saakashvili got big financial support from Russia during the revolution,” Beselia stated.

Despite the firm position of the President on the snap elections the “radical” opposition is planning to hold more rallies. Opposition supporters and members of NGOs will picket the Interior Ministry building on June 9, to mark two months since the start of the protest rallies. The opposition have also announced their plans to “change tactics”, although no further details have been released so far. Opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze has promised to provide more information about this within the next few days.