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Independence Day is approaching

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 18
26 May, Georgia’s Independence Day, is approaching. The entire political spectrum agrees that this day is a celebration of the unity of the nation. However politicians are not at all unanimous on how this anniversary should be celebrated and it could become yet another reason for confrontation.

The administration plans to hold a military parade on Rustaveli Avenue in front of the Parliament building, the usual place for such things. Commander-in-Chief President Mikheil Saakashvili will review the parade. However this decision has aroused much discontent in the opposition for several reasons. They say that after losing the 2008 war with Russia it is inappropriate to hold a military parade and holding a parade just 4 days before the elections is a demonstration of power by the administration. There are also extra financial costs involved in holding the parade, but these arguments are not accepted by the authorities. Givi Targamadze, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security, states that during the period of Russian occupation the country is obliged to protect its symbols of statehood and this makes it absolutely necessary to hold a May 26 military parade. He says that the parade is dedicated to the country, not the administration, and those who object to this parade are against the state and the state should not take any notice of the likes and dislikes of every part of society.

The trouble is that the opposition are not united over this issue. Each party has different plans, some thinking that the people should fill Rutaveli Avenue and prevent the parade taking place. May 26 should be about the people, say those opposition members, but those saying this are actually seeking confrontation, as they know they will not be allowed to hinder the parade. Other opposition members, though they do not like the idea of the parade, are intending to start protest actions only after the elections if they are manipulated. Military analyst Giorgi Tavdgiridze thinks that a parade is a Soviet-style celebration and suggests as an alternative sending different military units and their equipment to different parts of the city so that the people can see and even touch military hardware and the officers and soldiers can talk to the people directly, explaining the history of their particular regiment, answering questions and so on. This would be much cheaper than a parade, Tavdgiridze says, and need not necessarily involve all the military.

It has been suggested that many foreign guests have been invited to the May 26 celebrations, which provides further argument for holding a spectacular parade, but not many will come. Many foreign leaders want to avoid upsetting the Russians, and as analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze says President Saakashvili has lost the burnished image he had during and after the Rose Revolution. Since the August War in particular many things have changed. It has already become known that Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has refused to visit Georgia on that day and commentators point out that President Saakashvili was not invited to the Lithuanian Independence Day celebrations in March, despite the fact that previous President Valdas Adamkus was one of the Presidents who formed a 'human shield' in Tbilisi during the Russian invasion. Georgian officials do however expect a Polish delegation to visit.

As with so many things here in Georgia, even the Independence Day celebrations are surrounded by uncertainty, controversy and chaos. Was this what Georgia became independent for?