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Opposition leader breaks with coalition over ‘alternative parliament’

By Shorena Labadze
Wednesday, May 28
The opposition’s plan to set up an ‘alternative parliament’ has resurrected memories from Georgia’s violent past, causing one opposition leader to break with his allies.

At a May 26 protest of last week’s parliamentary elections, which the opposition claim was rigged, coalition leaders branded the incoming parliament as “illegitimate.” They promised that their MPs-elect would boycott its sessions, and suggested they would instead sit in an alternative parliament.

“We, the truly elected officials, will form an alternative government… We will convene and make decisions about this country,” Davit Gamkrelidze, a leading member of the eight-party opposition coalition called the United Opposition, told the crowd.

The idea proved too much for one leading coalition member, We, Ourselves leader Paata Davitaia, who announced his party’s departure from the coalition on a late-night television talk show after the rally.

“The only reason I am leaving the United Opposition is that I cannot accept the decision to create an alternative parliament,” Davitaia said. “I think this is entirely unacceptable from the point of view of the state’s interests.”

He said he would still join the planned opposition boycott of the new parliament.

Explaining his decision, Davitaia recalled Georgia’s recent history of the 1990s.

In the early 1990s opposition groups set up an extralegal congress which gained the support of the powerful paramilitary Mkhedrioni group.

In that case, an alternative ‘legislative’ body escalated political tension and helped plunge the country into civil war, according to political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze.

However, the analyst said he does not think the same would necessarily happen today.

“An alternative parliament [now] may increase tension, but it doesn’t definitely mean bloody confrontation. The step taken by the opposition is risky of course, but it will not necessarily be fatal,” Sakvarelidze said.

Opposition leaders have dismissed Davitaia’s concerns, with leading United Opposition member Kakha Kukava calling them “groundless.”

He added that an alternative parliament is only part of their plan, and that it may not go ahead.

“This alternative parliament is only an idea. We haven’t made a decision yet,” Kukava said yesterday.

“The only thing that is surely decided is that we won’t let parliament hold its first session. We’ll gather all Georgia in Tbilisi on this day.”

Davitaia is the second figure to leave the United Opposition since the elections. Dimitri Lortkipanidze of Georgia’s Way left earlier, saying he wasn’t consulted in opposition decisions.

The new parliament must convene by June 10, in accordance with the Georgian constitution.