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Between deadlock and dialogue

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 28
May 26, Georgia’s Independence Day, passed controversially. More than 60,000 people came to celebrate it charged with protest. This is a Georgian peculiarity, celebrating things in a negative way.

The non-Parliamentary opposition continue to seek different ways of shaping their protest. the administration meanwhile is not prepare to deviate from its chosen course. It maintains that nothing is happening, there are only a handful of dissatisfied people in the streets and the country is continuing its move towards progress and democracy and economic stability. But things are not as simple as that. The number of people appearing in the National Stadium and those clearly supporting them could easily total half a million, around a quarter of the total electorate, and you cannot simply ignore such a quantity of people protesting and demanding changes. This is too dangerous to attempt, and the dangers are too unpleasant to contemplate.

Society is moving towards civil confrontation. Dialogue is the only alternative to this but it requires good will from both sides. On the eve of Independence Day the US and EU made a joint statement encouraging both sides to cease their confrontation and start dialogue without preconditions. One round of dialogue has been held, but it yielded almost no results. As political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze says, the ruling authorities are showing a readiness for dialogue to impress their Western partners, but if they had really wanted it they would have conducted dialogue earlier.

Saakashvili and his administration are categorically denying that there is a crisis in the country but the opposition insist that the crisis is here and only the President’s resignation can be the solution of it. Those who remember the Rose Revolution of 2003 draw parallels. Then the degree of the protest charge, and peaceful opposition protest actions forced the administration to go peacefully. However today the principle of ‘more people in the street the administration goes’ does not work. Shevardnadze resigned, but Saakashvili has not resigned and most probably will not resign. Today the opposition has no distinct leader as charismatic as Saakashvili was in 2003. It has no powerful propaganda tool, a TV station which could carry out an organizing role, whereas the Rose Revolutionaries had Rustavi 2. The opposition also has no money, whereas the Rose Revolutionaries had. Most importantly, the opposition has no international support whereas the Rose Revolutionaries had.

Opposition politicians and analysts comfort themselves by saying that Saakashvili does not have enough international support now, citing certain incidents as proof, but he still has enough international support to maintain his position. The Western position is not a simple one, as the West has objections to both sides. On the one hand the protests are here and have lasted, involving thousands of people and creating discomfort to the administration, and this has been noted, but on the other the President and Parliament they seek to displace were ‘legally elected’, something which counts for a lot in Western thinking. Although there is a question of how justly and fairly last year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections were conducted, they were declared free and fair by international observers, despite the fact that independent experts and opposition figures continue to dispute this.

Of course both sides should take responsibility for the developments in the country, but the responsibility of the administration, by definition, should be higher. Dialogue should continue and the sooner the better. Otherwise there is a serious threat that the confrontation could become more acute and therefore that the authorities might use force. The level of force used could not be controlled precisely, and nor could the consequences of using it. This development would not bring good results for either side, or the country most of all.