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The Labor Party demands a referendum on the Afghan mission

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 13
The Georgian Labor Party wants a referendum to be held over the issue of withdrawal of Georgian military forces from Afghanistan. It is doubtful whether the referendum will be held but there is no doubt Georgia is facing a problem in its relations with NATO. The death of Georgian soldiers only adds to this problem.

Georgia’s new administration, as well as the previous one supports the country’s decision to participate in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. However, the general population is confused, asking the question “Why should Georgia, a small country, send so many troops to participate in the military operations there ?” Of course, the anti-western elements in Georgia only aggravate the situation, encouraging anti-NATO feelings.

The popular opinion regarding this issue is that the former United National Movement (UNM) leadership made unrealistic commitments to NATO. It is also felt that Georgia participates disproportionally in relation to both its size and ability. It has approximately 1,600 servicemen in Afghanistan and to date, it has lost 29 soldiers.

When Georgia took the decision some years ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s did not bother to find out what the public felt about joining the mission. He and his party decided and the rest, as they say is history. Georgia is now obliged to fulfill its commitment. The main reason given for the policy is that it brings Georgia closer to joining both the EU and NATO.

Many of those who oppose Georgia’s participation in the ISAF mission say the death of so many Georgians is a very high price to pay for EU and/or NATO aspirations.

There are other questions too: “Why should Georgia participate in the mission when it has its own military problems, where 20% of its territory is occupied by Russia?” and “Why should Georgia make sacrifices for the security and safety of a third country, when it can not make its own territories secure?”

Regarding NATO membership, there is no indication that Georgia is getting any closer . NATO officials keep repeating the different conditions which need to be met before Georgia will be able to participate in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for time unlimited, which is really only the first step to membership. Meanwhile, pro-Russian elements in Georgia take advantage of such an ambiguous situation and keep making attempts to distance Georgia from the west by trying to discredit the west.

Bearing all this in mind, the Labor Party has applied to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to hold a referendum on the issue. The Labor Party, as well as other opponents, is confident, that given enough time, together with the continued increase in the number of Georgian casualties, they will eventually get enough public support to validly challenge Georgia’s participation in the ISAF mission. They also feel that the state authorities will eventually have to give better reasons for Georgia’s involvement other than simply a wish to join the EU and NATO.

In the current presidential, pre-election period, this topic is bound to be the subject of further speculation.