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Political deadlock

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 23
The administration and opposition are competing against each other in trying to demonstrate the firmness of their positions. The non-Parliamentary opposition continues with its protest actions which began on 9 April and says it will keep them going until Saakashvili resigns. The President states that he has not the slightest intention of resigning before his official term expires in 2013.

The opposition declares that Saakashvili will be forced to resign pretty soon. The authorities say meanwhile that the protest leaders will exhaust their resources and be forced to make concessions. Maintaining such positions can only result in the continuation of the confrontation, which could easily step outside the bounds of the constitution. Both sides claim neither of them would allow this, but the risk is there and such a development could be devastating for the country.

Exactly two weeks have passed since the rallies began and some conclusions can be drawn. Firstly we can see what did not come true: the ‘April 9 revolution’ failed to materialise. Many journalists from different countries had come to Tbilisi in the hope of seeing high-octane street battles but their revolution did not take place. However, although the radical opposition did not plan to conduct a revolution they did initially say that Saakashvili would resign before Easter. Easter has been and gone, Saakashvili is still here.

The administration’s calculations were also wrong. It expected the opposition to get tired and disperse. This will not happen because it would mean political death for the leaders of the protest actions who currently represent quite a large part of the Georgian political spectrum. The number of people dissatisfied with Saakashvili’s performance is also great. The administration has made many mistakes over the last five years and the number of discontented people far exceeds the number of Saakashvili supporters, says the opposition. If some shortcomings could be excused the lost war, lost territories, lost people and thousands of IDPs are real causes of dissatisfaction for the people. So the battle of nerves continues.

The opposition speculates about a possible police raid on the demonstrations. So far the authorities have refrained from ordering this, knowing that it would damage the country’s image very seriously. However such a development cannot be excluded completely. The radical opposition has declared a campaign of civil disobedience by blocking off streets and buildings in Tbilisi. Over the last 20 years Georgia has had significant experience of civil disobedience. First President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was ousted with more than hundred dead in 1992 and civil disobedience was declared prior to the Rose Revolution in 2003. Today it is mostly the same people who staged the Rose Revolution who man different sides of the barricades.

Some Westerners watching the developments support the President remaining in power and not resigning. No one could imagine a US President resigning if his rating fell dramatically, although he could be impeached. But Georgia is far from being a really democratic country. The court system does not work and the legislative body is under the President’s control. The opposition fears that if Saakashvili stays until 2013 the Aliyev or Putin model will be applied in Georgia.

A dialogue could provide an alternative or a solution to the present crisis, but the administration does not bear opposition’s trust. The opposition does not trust it, saying that words about dialogue should be followed by action. Furthermore the opposition wants serious guarantees that the implementation of decisions reached through dialogue will be monitored.

Dialogue is impossible without trust, therefore some force needs to be identified which both sides will trust before a dialogue can take place. As both sides are pro-Western any number of countries might broker such a dialogue, were they not so keen to state their absolute non-involvement, or wish to see the President remain in power regardless.