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Opposition lays out plan of future action

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, April 16
Amidst the Government’s repeated calls for dialogue, the radical opposition have drawn up a plan of future action, saying that they will carry on picketing the Parliament, the President’s residence and the Public Broadcaster building even during the Easter holidays.

Speaking to the demonstrators at Avlabari Presidential Residence, the leader of the Movement for United Georgia, Eka Beselia, said “it is very important that the protest goes on during Easter too.” However the opposition says no political statements will be made during the holidays. Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of the Way of Georgia, said “the people will be able to attend the churches close to the protest rally sites.”

The opposition have also announced their post-Easter plans. Beselia said that after the holidays the leaders of the opposition will start going out into the regions to mobilize supporters, in order “to involve the whole of Georgia” in the demonstrations.

Along with the existing picket of the Parliament building, President’s Residence and Public Broadcaster, the demonstrators have now targeted the State Chancellery, saying they will also stay outside this building until the President resigns. The Georgian media has reported that the opposition will also protest outside the Mayor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Government has once more expressed its readiness to start discussions with its opponents about the ongoing events in the country. According to ruling party MPs the topics for dialogue should be amendments in the Election Code, Constitutional changes and cooperation in ensuring Georgia’s de-occupation. “Starting negotiations is the only way to defend the interests of every citizen. As for the President’s resignation, this is impossible. Now we, together with the opposition, should fight together to overcome those problems which exist in the country,” MP from the ruling National Movement Akaki Minashvili said on April 15.

Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze and Minister for Penitentiary and Probation Dimitri Shashkin made a new proposal to the opposition on Wednesday, offering them positions in the State Commission working on the early release of prisoners. The Georgian Parliament Speaker said that after including representatives of the opposition, civil society and the NGO sector the problem of the non-transparent work of the Commission will be eliminated. “The activities of the Commission will become transparent due to its composition,” Bakradze said, adding that this initiative will also help Parliament more effectively control the penitentiary and probation system.

The radical opposition have said they are not going to be part of the Commission. Salome Zourabichvili said that the opposition spent a lot of time on dialogue with the Government after November 2007 but without result. “This means that starting dialogue with the authorities has no sense,” Zourabichvili noted. Meanwhile the Parliamentary opposition has responded positively to the initiative. According to Christian Democratic Party MP Giorgi Targamadze, it will be very good if the “Commission’s work is more transparent.” Targamadze noted that if his party decides to participate in the work of the Commission, the first issue they raise will be pardoning journalist Shalva Ramishvili.

The opposition claim that while the authorities are making negotiation proposals opposition activists are being beaten up and attacked almost every day. The April 9 protest organizers said on Wednesday that several unidentified men had physically assaulted three opposition activists the previous night. The opposition said that these attacks signal “the end of the regime.” Bidzina Gujabidze from the Conservative Party said “violence and oppression will not deter the opposition from reaching its goal.” State officials have not made any comment on this second allegation of violence against demonstrators so far.

Political analysts are doubtful that the opposition will achieve its goal. Independent political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze has said that it is very unlikely that Saakashvili will resign and therefore present himself as someone who gave in to the opposition’s demands. He suggested that dialogue will take place between the opposition and the authorities but is unable to predict what exactly might be the topics of such negotiations. He said that the opposition is counting on the demonstrators’ motivation and persistence, while the Government is hoping that the people will get tired and the level of protests will reduce.