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Opposition not confronting government while Russian aggression lasts

By M. Alkhazashvili
Wednesday, August 20
While Georgia is still facing full scale Russian aggression opposition parties refrain from criticizing the ruling administration and from holding any kind of anti government rallies or demonstrations.

Under the present circumstances any such activities could be used by Russia to its advantage, so for the time being the opposition thinks that the priority for the country is to unite, resist the occupation and force the Russian army to withdraw from Georgia. Analysis and criticism are inevitable but the opposition will wait.

Recently both the opposition and political analysts have agreed that Russia cannot create a Fifth Column in Georgia. No opposition party or individual politician has made any pro-Russian statement.

Former Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze states that Russia’s politics is absolutely unacceptable for Georgia, and until it respects our territorial integrity and sovereignty it will have no support whatsoever here. Opposition representative Gia Tortladze welcomes the fact that Russia has no support among Georgians.

However in reality there are many people in Georgia who have a pro-Russian orientation. Though they cannot openly approve the Russian aggression they insist that Georgia’s western orientation has resulted in disastrous consequences and that Georgia has to immediately give it up and move toward Russia.

Alexandre Chachia, who sporadically appears in Georgian politics and is notorious for his pro-Russian stance, has stated that everything that has happened was instigated by the USA and that Georgia should now negotiate, not with those who are ostensibly supporting the country, but with those who are bombing us, so that that bombing can be stopped. Chachia also suggested himself as a mediator in negotiations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Another pro-Russian is Valeri Kvaratskhelia. This man currently leads the political party Neutral Georgia, and has stated that the US is trying to use Georgia against Russia. He thinks that Russia has behaved badly but that its conduct was forced upon it by the ‘improper conduct’ of Georgia and the US. He recommends that Georgia reconsider its foreign policy priorities and suggests that Georgia’s future is in neutrality. “Georgia will never become a NATO member and this idee fixe could cause many more problems for us,” Kvaratskhelia says.

In the current situation even those who have any sympathy with Russia are very frustrated and have a feeling that Russia can never be trusted again. As for the Georgian political opposition, it is almost united in the direction of western orientation and some parties, for instance the New Rights and Republicans, have sent an appeal to NATO asking it to integrate Georgia into its structures as soon as possible.

Some of the opposition have started airing critical remarks about the present administration, but such efforts are very modest. One of the leaders of National Forum, Irakli Melashvili, has stated that putting pressure on the Saakashvili administration is dangerous as it could frighten the President even more and could force him to sign even more damaging documents with Russia. That’s why opposition is being so careful. But there is another reason why the opposition is so quiet. It does not want to give the Saakashvili administration a reason to blame the opposition for the failure which resulted in this crisis.

As soon as the situation in the country stabilizes the opposition will resume its usual activities, criticism, protests and so on. However it is not yet known what kind of balance will eventually be struck between Georgia and Russia. Whether we like it or not Russia is our neighbour, although a very aggressive and hostile one. Georgia will have to rely greatly on the international community ensuring that this balance is maintained by civilized means.