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Opposition groups lay out future action plans

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, May 28
The Alliance for Georgia, consisting of the political team of Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, the Republican Party and the New Rights Party, has announced plans to act separately from other “radical” opposition forces, while continuing to work other opposition groups in a “coordination regime.” After consultations between the April 9 rally organising parties in the New Rights’ office on May 27, Alasania said the Alliance is not “leaving the joint fight” but under a new action plan would focus on holding targeted, issue-based rallies, rather than participating in permanent demonstrations. “The opposition are not getting any closer to their goal by holding such rallies,” Alasania said, referring to those which involve the blocking of roads and highways by opposition supporters.

Opposition activists, led by David Gamkrelidze from the New Rights Party, Nino Burjanadze from the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party, Salome Zourabichvili of the Way of Georgia and Eka Beselia of the Movement for United Georgia blocked the railway lines at the Central Railway Station in Tbilisi for 4 hours late on Tuesday. The head of Georgian Railway Irakli Ezugbaia said that traffic movement was not restored for several more hours after the unblocking of the lines, due to cleaning works going on at the site of the blockade.

“The opposition have to carry on fighting with new tactics,” Alasania told journalists after the meeting, adding that the Alliance will be focusing on three things: carrying out result-oriented protest rallies instead of continual demonstrations, holding issue-based dialogue with the Government about the 6-point proposal made by the opposition and involving the international community in the processes going on in Georgia. The leader of the Alliance for Georgia said he will hold a special briefing by the end of the week to outline more details of his team’s plans.

Kakha Shartava’s National Forum is also planning to hold a special briefing today to make a special statement about its future plans. The National Forum, which was part of the April 9 organising group, had announced its intention to start its own campaign in the Georgian regions, however its leaders have now promised to reveal their final plan on May 28. The National Forum has withdrawn its “cells” and supporters from Rustaveli Avenue, the Press Service of the Forum reported on Wednesday.

Commenting on the National Forum’s decision to leave the protest rally on Rustaveli Avenue, Irakli Alasania said “leaving cell town does not mean that they are departing from the common fight,” and added that the Alliance will retain close ties with the Forum. “We see a close cooperation with this team in the future,” Alasania said.

The non-Parliamentary opposition leaders say they might “expand” and further “radicalise” the protest rallies. Zviad Dzidziguri from the Conservative Party said negotiations about the future action plan are still going on. “The rallies will be peaceful and within the framework of the Georgian Constitution,” Dzidziguri noted, adding that “political parties have the right to take individual decisions and this does not mean that coordination between the leaders has been suspended.”

Nino Burjanadze, the former Parliament Speaker and current leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, said the opposition is not going to change its plans. “Saakashvili’s regime cannot be removed with beautiful words and refined methods. I think effective steps should be taken and I am ready for this,” Burjanadze said after the three-hour consultations in the New Rights office. “The fight has not ended with yesterday’s rally,” she said, referring to the opposition’s demonstration on May 26, “the fight will be much more sharp than it was before,” she said.

The former Parliament Chair also commented on the May 27 meeting between the Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II, brothers Levan and Giorgi Gachechiladze and herself. “During my visit to the Patriarchate I stressed once more that I am carrying on a just fight together with society. I explained to the Patriarch that our fight should not be suspended at this stage,” Burjanadze said. Others attending this meeting have not made any comment so far.

The leader of the People’s Party, Koba Davitashvili, revealed the opposition’s plans for the near future. He said a rally will be held at the Sports Palace in downtown Tbilisi today. According to Davitashvili the demonstrators will march to the Tbilisi City Mayor’s Office later. He added that “it is a pity” that the National Forum has left the “cells” and said that members of the People’s Party and Conservative Party will replace National Forum supporters in improvised cells on Rustaveli Avenue.

Political analysts say that although the opposition have different views on some specific issues, they are still united around one common issue – that Saakashvili’s regime should change. Independent political commentator Giorgi Khutsishvili said despite being very “colourful” and “different” from each other, the opposition spectrum has maintained its joint platform. “This is their strength,” Khutsishvili told The Messenger. “It is natural that different political forces have different approaches to certain issues, and that they try to establish themselves in the arena and lead their own way, but this does not mean that the opposition has fallen apart.”

The analyst said both strategies of the opposition – the more radical mode of action and the more restrained one, can be effective in different situations. “If the Government ignores the opposition’s demands and takes no action, the “radical” opposition will come to the forefront, if the Government decides to start real and serious negotiations and take some real steps, then the more restrained opposition forces will lead the way,” Khutsishvili noted, adding that there are different approaches to the current situation even within the Government. “There are some people in the administration who are more radical, including President Saakashvili, and there are some others, including Parliament Speaker David Bakradze, who support starting a real dialogue with the opposition,” the analyst stated, adding that “however, the final decisions are always made by the President.”