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Non-Parliamentary opposition on the move

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, January 15
After the August Russian aggression the opposition took time out. First it declared a moratorium on criticizing the administration, then it began regrouping and creating new political forces.

The major demand of the non-Parliamentary opposition is still the holding of snap elections, either Presidential or Parliamentary or both. So far this demand has not been aired at street demonstrations. From January 25th however the United Opposition plans to begin a new wave of street rallies. However, though calling itself united, the opposition is far from being such. Now only the Conservatives, People’s Party, Georgia’s Way and leaders without a party – Levan Gachechiladze and Goga Khaindrava – remain members of it.

Other opposition parties, Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary, have not so far supported the plan to hold street actions. This is not because they do not object to the conduct of the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but because they each want to be seen as the leading opposition party. They are also put off by the fact that no one can predict the potential scale of the protest action. In Autumn 2007 the country witnessed massive protest actions whose extent was not anticipated by either side, either the administration or the opposition itself. That is why the authorities clumsily dispersed them and have had to keep answering for this since then. The protest was so large it could have easily transformed into street violence and civil confrontation, but luckily the people’s wisdom prevailed and it did not respond to the administration’s brutal provocation with the same behaviour.

An attempt was made to repeat the 2007 action on the anniversary of the November 7 violence but the number of protesters was far from what the opposition desired. So January 25 will be yet another test of how many protesters are prepared to come out into the streets.

It looks as if the opposition is in standby mode: the effects of the global economic crisis into which Georgia has plunged are not yet so vivid, and most probably the Obama administration will be more insistent that the Georgian authorities fulfil democratic commitments. Therefore the opposition hopes that these external factors, and Western pressure above all, will force the Georgian leadership to schedule new snap elections, although before they are held a new election code should be adopted.

Conservative member Kakha Kukava says that he is sure that Saakashvili and his closest advisors have already decided that snap elections will be held this coming Spring. Independent analysts observe that Saakashvili is already conducting election-type campaigning and therefore might as well schedule a date for new elections. Some opposition entities, however, don’t like this prospect and are demanding that snap elections are held only after Saakashvili resigns.

The people of Georgia will play the decisive role in all this mess. If the protest actions become massive and permanent the administration will be forced to make concessions and accelerate the process of giving up power. There is a certain threat though. By no means should people fall into the trap of behaving violently and demanding revolution. This will ruin the country’s image forever and delay its Western and NATO orientation for an unlimited period. However, one of the few things on which opposition and Government agree is that Georgia should head towards the West, and behave accordingly.