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Cohabitation: six months later

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 3
When right after the October 1, 2012 Parliamentary elections Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili publicly declared that he was moving into the opposition, one could sense Georgia would be the scene of a very peculiar situation. Soon afterwards, Georgia’s Western friends and allies and international organizations, began recommending to Georgia’s new and old leadership to start the process of cohabitation.

The tem “cohabitation” was interpreted and explained many times. Its closest synonym used before in Georgian political terminology was “coexistence”, but whatever the details, the essence is the same: two confronting political parties and forces represent one nation, one society and therefore, they should live together and eventually they share the same country, the same territory, the same future…

Roughly six months have passed since the parliamentary elections and in just about two weeks, the former administration of the country– the United National Movement (UNM) – plans to hold a rally on April 19, which could become a crucial date.

There are different possibilities: if the UNM can manage to mobilize a huge number of people in the streets, it will definitely give them self-confidence and presumably, the president can risk dissolving the parliament and announce snap elections. If not, then the UNM will finally be ruined and remain with no chance to recover as a valid political force.

There can also be other developments. For instance, if many people would come to the rally, Saakashvili may use this to win his party member in forthcoming presidential election in October this year when his term of presidency expires.

From time to time information appears in the Georgia media as if the UNM is bribing the people, giving them money or promises in an effort to secure a huge number of supporters.

This is a risky gamble because it creates an inaccurate reality. One of the mistakes of the UNM before the October 2012 elections was the fact that it trusted in the results of the polling numbers, which were manipulated and people received some benefits from the UNM promising to vote but did not do so. So the real picture was distorted, whereas the UNM believed in the figures it had manipulated.

What are the peculiarities of cohabitation in Georgia? One vivid example is the fact that the ruling Georgian Dream coalition as well as most of Georgia's population should cope with Saakashvili as a president whose five year-term as president expired in January of 2013, though he prolonged his term for yet another nine months according to the constitutional changes.

One of the acute features of Georgian cohabitation is that the current administration wants to restore justice to punish particular representatives in high political echelons who have committed various crimes and violations, abused human rights, property rights, held political prisoners, put pressure on free media, and subordinated the entire court system under the UNM. This list can be further prolonged as there are thousands of cases where Georgian citizens have asked for justice to be served.

However, the same demand and moves are labeled by the Westerners as a persecution of political opponents and therefore the Georgian Dream is urged to be more tolerant.

Some think that there cannot be cohabitation between the “criminals” and the society. However, there were cases when the representatives of those two parties managed to reach a consensus, but of course overall this demand and the advice from Westerners were useful and it played positive role in the recent developments in the country.