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Speaking different languages

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 7
Two old ladies meet in the street. “Are you going to the supermarket?” asks the first. “No, I am going to the supermarket” the second answers. “Oh, I thought you were going to the supermarket” comments the first.

This is a classic example of absolute miscommunication. The two parties don’t hear each other, don’t understand, maybe don’t even care whether they are listening to each other. Both sides have readymade, stereotypical answers/positions.

Two days before April 9 the sides involved still speak different languages. The question now however is what sort of tactics will be used by the opposing sides on that date, as talking is apparently out of the question. The number of people turning out and how long the action will last will also affect whether either side is able to hear the other.

Conducting a dialogue has been much speculated about by both parties, but in vain – no constructive dialogue of any kind has been held, though there have been some attempts which failed with each side blaming the other. There have been certain visible consequences to this. Both sides feel they can support their arguments more by wilfully ignoring the other. Both sides feel that they will gain more support that way, and that they can thus influence the other without watering-down their own positions.

The organizers of the rally have only one demand – the resignation of the President, which should automatically be followed by snap elections. Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze asserts that through this demand the opposition has driven itself into a corner, as it gives it no next step if the President does not resign. The opposition considers otherwise. “The opposition is constructive… it doesn’t simply demand unconditional resignation… it is ready to discuss how Saakashvili and his team should leave politics” suggests political analyst Paata Zakareishvili.

The administration has tried to conduct a dialogue of certain type, suggesting that it could discuss amendments to the Constitution with the opposition. But this would be a long-term venture, and therefore such a dialogue would be purely a way for the authorities to gain time. The non-Parliamentary opposition has rejected this option, with only a few representatives of the Parliamentary opposition being prepared to countenance this mode of dialogue, though even then it has not actually taken place, thus raising doubts about the real commitment of either side to the process.

The Government is desperately trying to somehow delay the start of the rallies so that fewer people will turn out and is offering baubles to the population to tempt them away from protest and turn them towards the giver. For instance Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava now says that he supports direct elections for his own post, as the people demanded long ago. But again he presents a long term prospect: the next Mayoral elections are scheduled for 2010, and though a decision on this initiative could be taken now this would only be a minor change, irrelevant to the major changes the opposition is striving to achieve. Some experts suggest that the authorities might propose holding snap Parliamentary elections instead of Presidential ones, hoping this will throw the opposition off course, but this would most probably be said after April 9 if at all, and only then if the number of protestors is so great that the authorities have to dream up something to try and pacify them.

The leaders of the protesting parties insist that the action should be and will be peaceful but it will also be continuous. Opposition leaders insist that their moves are not unconstitutional or against the law. They will not be aggressive even if the authorities take inappropriate measures, they say. But the authorities see holding protests demanding their removal as an aggression in itself, and will not understand protestations of civilized conduct. They would also see any aggression they might use as keeping public order, something the police do every day without being accused of violence, and will not understand what the fuss is about if it simply unblocks the streets.

Many experts think that if the authorities try to be aggressive this will eventually create many more problems for them and will speed up the process of their removal. But with neither side being able to talk to or listen to the other a storm is brewing, and no one yet knows how destructive it may be.