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Going northward

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, March 9
When former Georgian President Shevardnadze was First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and thus the leader of Georgia, he once said that "for Georgia the sun rises from the north". He actually said this, and nowadays we treat it as a joke. But maybe it isn't a joke anymore.

Strange things are happening in Georgian politics. Opposition members who claim the most Western of orientations have slowly but steadily started visiting Moscow and meeting the most senior officials there. The first to do this was Zurab Noghaideli. Back in 2007 several opposition figures were labelled Russian agents for contacting a Russian diplomat, who was presumably an intelligence agent too, in Tbilisi but this did not stop Noghaideli meeting Vladimir Putin in Moscow rather openly last autumn. Now former Chair of Parliament Nino Burjanadze has travelled to Moscow to visit Putin. Conservative leader Zviad Dzidziguri also wants to go to Moscow, as does People's Party leader Koba Davitashvili, and the Labour Party has announced that it is waiting for an invitation. It is also likely that even more political figures will soon be travelling north.

Scientists report that as a result of recent devastating earthquakes the earth has shifted several centimetres in its orbit. So maybe the sun in Georgia is rising from north again. Would readers mind checking with their Governments? The politicians who have been already to The Kremlin and those in line top do so claim that their moves are motivated by a wish to restore territorial integrity. They all criticize the current Georgian administration, accusing Saakashvili and his team of making the moves which have destroyed territorial integrity. They insist on the necessity of resuming dialogue with Russia and quote the Medvedev-Putin tandem’s refusal to conduct any negotiations with the Saakashvili administration to justify their own negotiations with those individuals. Some now openly criticise the West and Georgia’s Western orientation but then quote those Westerners who have recommended that Georgia enter into dialogue with Moscow to support this anti-Western position.

Representatives of the authorities insist that those travelling to Moscow betray Georgia’s interests. “The casting sessions for traitors being held in Moscow continue to identify the top representatives and envoys of The Kremlin in Georgia,” says Nugzar Tsiklauri, MP from the ruling party, reflecting the general position of his side. However the situation is not that simple. Georgia has reached a critical point in its history, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Georgians unanimously adopted a pro-Western orientation, things seem to have changed. Georgia has had to pay, and is paying, a very dear price for its Western orientation. The Georgian people think that the country has not received adequate support from the West, so the country has to adjust its foreign policy vectors.

Of course the statement that Moscow will restore Georgia’s territorial integrity is either naive or a deliberate attempt to cheat the public. Some feel that Russian money, Russian support and maybe some violent means are the way to take power and are thus creating false hopes and expectations. If anyone thinks that they can use The Kremlin to fulfill their own plans their hopes will be frustrated: on the contrary, Moscow will use them and throw them into the dustbin after achieving its goal. Moscow can now manipulate the internal situation in Georgia, whereas some months ago Georgians were proud that The Kremlin had no apologists in Georgia.

Some analysts however still optimistically think that now all the parties have shown their cards the positions of all politicians will be revealed and those who remain Western oriented will win. Among the opposition leaders it looks as if Irakli Alasania has the most to gain from this process. The administration is quite concerned by what is happening but remains confident, criticising all pro-Russian moves and claiming it retains a pro-Western orientation, thinking the public will accept this.

Against this background the forthcoming elections have great significance. If they are conducted fairly and the people have no doubt that they were rigged the Government’s claims that it has a Western orientation will be more convincing. If the elections are manipulated these claims will be discredited and all the responsibility for this will be on the shoulders of the ruling administration. So Georgia’s leadership should be committed to holding genuine elections more ssthan the opposition is, a huge challenge and huge responsibility.