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April 9 – D day?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 25
Georgia lives with April 9 fixed in its mind. Different versions of what might happen on that day are discussed in the media. Some commentators are optimistic, saying nothing extraordinary will happen. Others are apocalyptic, believing the country is doomed to extended civil confrontation and chaos.

These speculations are damaging the country’s image. Business activity, already quite slow due to the Russian aggression and global crises, is idling, investments have almost stopped. Everybody and everything is in stand by mode.

Experts, foreign diplomats and the general population are very much concerned that there are no signs of a will to compromise on either side. The arrest of activists from Nino Burjanadze’s party demonstrates that the coming confrontation will be very harsh. If what was seen in the videos released by the Interior Ministry is true it is very alarming and dangerous, and if it was fabricated this is even more alarming.

The Georgian population well remembers the extreme conduct of the administration on November 7, 2007. Although the authorities promise they will not repeat their mistake, who can guarantee there will be no provocations? On the other hand the opposition keeps stubbornly repeating that all the resources for conducting a dialogue with the authorities are exhausted. Saakashvili should resign without any conditions and snap elections should be held afterwards, they demand.

Time passes quicker than one might want!

The authorities are doing their best to prevent people gathering in the centre of Tbilisi on April 9. The stakes are these: the more people come, the more realistic the opposition’s hopes become. If only a small number of people appear the protest can be ignored. The opposition is obviously trying to maximize the number of people who will protest, and therefore the battle has already started.

Both sides are talking about Russian money, Russian spies and agents, Russian games and provocations of different types and are constantly labeling each other. The recent arrests have aggravated the situation even more. According to the administration they demonstrate the true nature of the opposition – it is a criminal gang preparing to conduct a military coup, implies the Government. The allegation is designed to discourage the population from supporting such people by participating in the protest actions, but so far it has only stimulated further consolidation of the opposition spectrum. Even the parties which have criticized Nino Burjanadze and her party have expressed their solidarity with her – something greatly appreciated by Burjanadze herself.

Why was Burjanadze the prime target? There could be several reasons. Burjanadze is the strongest force in the opposition and the Government wanted to discredit her. Here were her party members holding and bargaining for arms. The outcome however could be the opposite and the incident might merely increase her rating in the population. The former Speaker of Parliament is criticized in Georgia because she supported Saakashvili for longer than many others in the opposition. On the other hand she is quite well known and respected abroad and recognized as a senior politician. She is also popular in Russia where she studied at university. Maybe this is why she was chosen as the first target.

The opposition has so far not stated its precise plan of action for April 9 and afterwards. It assures everybody that its actions will not overstep constitutional boundaries. So everything will now depend on the nerve and spiritual and material resources of the conflicting sides. Saakashvili and his administration have not the slightest intention to go and will try their best to show that the protestors are just a handful of politically frustrated people. Elections were held in Georgia last year and according to the authorities they demonstrated the people’s will. However the opposition and a substantial part of the population do not agree with these assessments.

A destabilization of the situation in Georgia comforts nobody in the international community except Russia. The West wants stability in Georgia. However if the present turmoil continues the West might reassess its attitude to the Saakashvili administration and consider him the source of the destabilization. This is what the opposition is hoping for.