The messenger logo

Majority and opposition: confrontation replaces dialogue

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 27
President Saakashvili’s 4 hour live TV performance showed vividly that relations between the ruling majority and the opposition are far from cooperative and based on confrontation.

During his appearance the President’s tone towards opposition members was cynical and he often mocked them, in particular his former allies who have recently moved into the opposition. The latter, for their part, responded in the same way. Thus both parties fixed their principled positions, leaving no room for concessions and drifting inevitably towards further confrontation.

In fact Saakashvili’s position and style has pushed the opposition into uniting more substantially under one programme with one focus – this resignation of the President. It wants Parliamentary and Presidential elections too, but only after this resignation. This is not a position which leaves room for compromise. However let us be optimistic. Let us assume that the administration makes serious changes in the election code and schedules a snap Parliamentary election, and thus creates room for dialogue. What sort of dialogue might take place, and between whom?

So far the majority is ready to conduct dialogue only with the Parliamentary opposition, which is regarded by the non-Parliamentary version as a “Government manipulated and false opposition.”

The majority has a very specific attitude to the non-Parliamentary opposition, considering it “weak and bankrupt,” not capable of doing anything. While Saakashvili was answering questions on the 23rd the New Rights and Republicans alliance was holding a rally in front of the TV station. Republican leader David Usupashvili said,” we have no questions for Saakashvili. He has to resign and as soon as possible. If he wants to know why, we are ready to prove to the Georgian people in debates with him why he should resign.” This demand merely proves the President right. If the only force which will talk to him is the Parliamentary opposition, who else can he hold a dialogue with?

During his live interview the President categorically rejected the possibility of holding any kind of snap elections. “Let them wait, they are young, those who deserve it will have everything,” Saakashvili preached, referring to the opposition. However the opposition is sure that Saakashvili has already decided to hold Parliamentary elections to survive, and that his team has begun implicit campaigning. Knowing his style, he could call the elections quite unexpectedly, giving the opposition very short notice. His previous conduct confirms this and supports the opposition’s assertions. However if there are no amendments to the election code the result is predictable, the majority will win again. All this will have been done without dialogue – no one will have been consulted about holding the elections or how they are conducted. Everything will be back to square one.

The ping pong of political accusations continues in a nasty manner. The President said of his former allies, “when they were in power they said nothing, but now they talk about democracy.” The President says he dismissed all these former team members, comparing them with strikers who cannot score any more, and therefore must be dropped from the team. Former Chair of Parliament Nino Burjanadze responded immediately, saying that the President has forgotten what the Constitution says, i.e. that he does not have the power to dismiss the Chair of the Parliament. The President said the opposition promotes clan interests and jobs for relatives, citing the couple Khidasheli and Usupashvili, the brothers Berdzenishvili and Gachechiladze and so on. The opposition in response immediately presented a big list of relatives Saakashvili has put in power, the brothers Kublashvili, the brothers Bezhuashvili, the brothers Akhalaia, father and son Gabashvili etc.

All this verbal confrontation is regrettable, and proves that neither side is prepared to conduct dialogue, seeking to drive the other into a dead end. Some political analysts think the new US administration will put pressure on the Georgian leadership and force it to make concessions. Others think this hope is very naive, suggesting that the people of the country should have the decisive opinion.

That may be all very well. However, neither Government nor opposition has any idea at this stage what the people of the country are actually going to do.