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Who will facilitate the dialogue?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 16
The protest actions which began on April 9 are unlikely to stop by themselves as state officials had hoped. The protestors have enough will, and seemingly enough inner resources, to continue. Obviously the general public has a serious feeling of disenchantment with the administration and this will bolster the opposition.

The Government feels rather uncomfortable. However it does not intend to fulfill the opposition’s demand. The President will not resign. Therefore in parallel with the rallies there are continual suggestions about holding dialogue. Apart from putting pressure on the economic situation, which is already dire, the rallies create other threats, particularly from the country to the north, which once again is benefiting from Georgia’s problems. So to cut it short, dialogue has no alternative.

However the problem is that neither side is really ready for dialogue. The opposition thinks that the administration is using requests for dialogue to gain time and stop the civil disobedience and it stubbornly rejects any dialogue on anything apart from the resignation of the President. Both sides are appealing to the tolerance of the people, and they do not trust each other, which further aggravates the situation.

The non-Parliamentary or ‘radical’ opposition still hopes that by these protests it will be able to force the President to resign peacefully. The authorities on their side hope that the protests will exhaust themselves and the opposition will eventually retreat. Whatever the reasons and motivations of either side there is only one who pays for this confrontation – the people of Georgia.

We think that the only force which could persuade both sides to make concessions would be someone respected by both sides whose opinion would also carry weight with both of them. The local experts who claim to be independent still have sympathies toward one side or the other, so they would not be likely to prove trustworthy. The Church, and the Patriarch himself, have several times appealed to the conflicting parties to reconcile and hold dialogue, but unfortunately in vain.

Maybe it would be more useful if mediation between the authorities and opposition was undertaken by European structures or the US Government. Both the administration and radical opposition claim they are Western-oriented, which is true. The two sides try to conduct themselves according to Western standards to prove to the civilized world that they are committed to democratic values. If they had not been this confrontation would have been more radical and maybe full of violence. So we can assume that if a Western body mediated between them both parties would trust the intermediary rather than each other and be able to talk to the intermediary, and therefore indirectly to each other, about their various issues.

There is still a possibility that some way to conduct a fair dialogue can be found. One issue which could form a starting point for debate is holding a referendum on whether it is necessary to hold snap Presidential elections. This had been the demand of the opposition Alliance for Georgia. If this is unacceptable for the regime, it might nevertheless agree to call Parliamentary elections instead, however costly these might be, because what is more costly, permanent destabilization or Parliamentary elections?

There are good reasons for taking this step. The August Russian invasion created a situation in which Parliament no longer adequately reflects the political situation in the country. The opposition demand for snap Presidential elections would not be completely satisfied, but they would get Parliamentary ones instead. As the President would not have to resign his ambition and those of his supporters would be satisfied. However such elections could only be held if very serious preconditions are fulfilled – major and essential changes in the election code, which would provide an unimpeachable basis for fair elections and prevent the authorities using administrative resources for electoral purposes and manipulating the results, and constitutional amendments which would reduce Presidential powers. These things have been proposed before, and discussed to some extent, but the current situation might induce a real will for doing something about it.

International radical interference seems to us the most appropriate way to resolve the current crisis in Georgia. This is one type of foreign interference the whole country can welcome, thus creating further reason for the politicians to unite.