The messenger logo

The United National Movement and street protests

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 25
Former Prime Minister and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, currently the Secretary-General of the United National Movement (UNM), announced that a street rally will be held in front of the former Parliament Building in Tbilisi on April 19th.

Already this month the UNM organized a street protest in support of Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, currently under investigation by the Ministry of Finance.

The protest action of April 19th is supposed to demonstrate to the new Georgian Dream government the Georgian population's desire to preserve the country’s pro-Western orientation. This is despite the new government having declared repeatedly their pro-Western orientation and their desire for Georgia to eventually join NATO and the EU.

The Secretary-General of the UNM has called upon all "Georgian patriots" to show the current government that the country should not revert to the past. The slogans used by UNM leaders are in the best manner of Soviet propaganda when all the faults of the communist regime were blamed on capitalist countries.

Many political analysts find it strange that the rally is scheduled two months from now when the issue of whether to add a constitutional amendment specifying Georgia's pro-Western orientation is currently being discussed. Another question also exists: why is the protest rally being held in front of the old Parliament Building in Tbilisi rather than in front of the new Parliament Building in Kutaisi?

Analysts remember well how some time ago Mikheil Saakashvili stated that the time when Georgia’s history was conducted on one street in Tbilisi (Rustaveli Avenue) was over. How strange then that his party has announced a rally to be held in front of the deserted Parliament Building on Rustaveli Avenue, scenes of other protests in Georgia's recent history. The building is in such a state of dilapidation now it would need several months' restoration and millions of lari to be able to host a parliamentary session.

Maybe the organizers of the April 19th rally were a little bit upset when the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland expressed his opinion that Georgia still has a strong pro-Western orientation.

Commentators are speculating about the reasons for announcing the rally two months hence. One explanation is that the UNM wants to boost its strength as it loses supporters daily around the country. According to this view the rally is being organized to demonstrate that it is still politically relevant. Another explanation is that by April the President can dissolve Parliament and the government. It will be interesting to see how many supporters the UNM can rally for the event.

Most analysts think the amount of people who took part in the recent protests in front of the Finance Ministry was the maximum number of those who support the old regime after a “total mobilization” of the party.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said this should all be accepted with humor but also supposed that the opposition is planning subterfuge. Georgian Dream coalition MP Koba Davitahsvili thinks this is a real threat. Leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) Giorgi Targamadze used the opportunity to gain attention by stating that the UNM is "a bulb which is switched off". Moreover, he said the scheduled rally is cynical because it was Saakashvili and Merabishvili who prevented Georgia’s Western development due to their policies. Georgian Dream MP Tina Khidasheli expressed her regret that Georgia has a political opposition that wants to keep the country in an atmosphere of confrontation.

It seems likely that the Georgian Dream coalition will not wait for events to develop and get out of hand; most probably they will have to take preventive measures. Georgia's political cohabitation is falling apart.