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Opposition youth wings to hold rallies in the regions

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, July 14
Representatives of the youth wings of the opposition parties held a special press conference at Tbilisi Marriott Hotel on Monday. Their spokesman Melor Vachnadze said that the deadline for freeing all political prisoners detained after the November 7, 2007 rallies given in a previous ultimatum was July 15. He once again called on the Government to release the detainees. He also demanded that people participating in raids on opposition rallies be punished.

The young opposition activists, who have already campaigned in Kakheti, will be holding meetings in the Samegrelo and Adjara regions. Their organisers say that the screening of a documentary showing Government oppression of opposition members and supporters from November 7, 2007 to date is also planned. After two days in the regions the young activists will start a continual rally in front of the Georgian Parliament. About 200 people will participate in this rally, which according to the organisers will not stop until their demands are met.

The ‘radical’ opposition leaders are also promising to hold a mass rally at the end of July, on the day of US Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival in Tbilisi, and another on the anniversary of the start of the Russian-Georgian war on August 7, 2008. The non-Parliamentary opposition members have suggested that the Government is “getting ready for the elections.” The leader of the Way of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, has said that the fact President Saakashvili has recently met the Governors of the Georgian regions and students indicates that he is preparing for the elections. Zourabichvili denied the President’s allegation that the Georgian economy has been harmed as a result of the protest rallies. “Making these kinds of statements is a political move designed to decrease the rating of the opposition before the elections. The economic crisis in the country is the result of “elite corruption” supported by the present administration,” Zourabichvili noted.

Meanwhile ruling party MPs have reiterated their call for “cooperation”. National Movement MP Mikheil Machavariani has said that a “consolidation” of political forces inside the country is necessary to resolve the “challenges and the problems” the country is currently facing. Parliament Speaker David Bakradze has also called on the non-Parliamentary opposition to start dialogue. He stressed the necessity of “political processes based on mutual respect.” “The Government is ready to hold an issue-based dialogue with the opposition on such important subjects as the country’s de-occupation, constitutional changes, election code and election commission changes,” he said. He added that the foreign policy of Georgia and the de-occupation of the country are issues which should unite all political forces with “healthy values.” The Parliament Chairman noted that relations in Parliament between the majority and the opposition are “healthy” and expressed the hope that similar relations will be established with non-Parliamentary opposition representatives.

Political analysts suggest that what for an outsider might seem a genuine offer could actually be seen as yet another “fake proposal” for someone who knows Georgian politics. Soso Tsiskarishvili, the President of the Experts Club, has said that this administration offer of dialogue is merely a PR stunt prior to the visit of the US Vice President. “For a year already we have been hearing that Georgia has overcome the consequences of the August war and the economic crisis. The reason for the public protesting is of course the August war, but such protest existed even before the war,” Tsiskarishvili has told The Messenger. “Amidst these calls for cooperation, the Government is proposing changes to the law which will restrict demonstrations. This law is not aimed against the current rallies. Most probably the Government is preparing for Parliamentary elections and wants to rig them like it did last year. It realises such vote-rigging will provoke protest in the population and the authorities are taking measures to prevent these future protest rallies,” the analyst stated.