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Opposition promises “surprises” in summer

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, June 29
The “radical” opposition, who have been rallying outside the Georgian Parliament for almost 3 months against President Mikheil Saakashvili, said on Saturday that they are planning some “small” and “big” surprises for the Government this summer.

The leader of the Way of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, who is one of the most outspoken critics of Saakashvili, said that “the protest wave has not decreased”, citing a rally in front of the Supreme Court building on June 26. “It was a very good response to the Government, and these kinds of responses will be made in future as well. The Government thought the protest charge had died down, however the protest still exists and nobody is tired,” Zourabichvili told demonstrators gathered on Rustaveli Avenue on June 27.

Zourabichvili downplayed officials’ allegations that the protest rallies are worsening the economic situation in Georgia. “The economic crisis is not related to the rallies, it is related to the economic policy of the country. The investors have been scared off by the war you started,” Zourabichvili stated.

Young opposition activist Jaba Jishkariani talked about some of their “surprise” plans. Speaking at the rally on Saturday he said the President will get “a lot of surprises” on the day US Vice President Joseph Biden arrives. “By that time we will be well prepared. We will organize several rallies. No matter where they take him, Biden will find out what is happening in the streets and what condition the Georgian people are in,” Jishkariani said.

Meanwhile, Mikheil Saakashvili has criticized the opposition’s strategy. He has said it is no surprise that no businessmen, either in Georgia or abroad, want to fund the opposition parties. “They do not want to fund the radical opposition’s destructive actions,” the President said. “I want everyone to realise that all businessmen want positive developments, every businessman is creating something, building or developing something,” Saakashvili noted. “None of them want unrest and none of them is pleased when instead of being offered a better programme or faster development, they are offered only a programme of closing, blocking and ending,” he added. “When your programme is closing, blocking and ending things, you will not get money. If you tell them you are going to develop things, then they will probably help you,” Saakashvili stated.

The radical opposition leaders, who have been talking openly about their future plans until now, said on Sunday that they will refrain from so doing in future. They say this is due to the arrest of Republican Party activist Merab Katamadze on arms-related charges on June 27. The Tbilisi City Court ordered Katamadze’s release on GEL 5,000 bail on Sunday. Republican Party members have said the charge is “absurd” calling it part of the administration’s “wave of arrests” of opponents. Manana Nachkhebia from the New Rights Party, which along with the Republican Party is part of the Alliance for Georgia, said she is unable to speak about the opposition’s future plans. “If you had asked me to reveal our plans just a day ago, I would have done so, but now I am afraid that if we tell you our plans, all the opposition leaders might end up in detention,” Nachkhebia told The Messenger.

As for the President’s criticism of the opposition’s tactics, Nachkhebia said that the opposition has never been destructive. “Saakashvili is just trying to blame all problems on the opposition. It is our Government’s unwise domestic and foreign policy, including economic policy, which has led the country into a bigger crisis than any other country is experiencing at the moment,” Nachkhebia said.