Separately celebrated May 26th
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, June 3Georgia recently celebrated Independence Day, but this, even symbolically, failed to unite the political spectrum. Everyone celebrated Independence Day separately. The next day, during the speech of the Prime Minister in the parliament, the government and the opposition met. The Prime Minister spoke about the successful fight against the epidemic and the beginning of the way out of the crisis, while the opposition reminded the government of the existing problems.
On May 26th, Georgia marked the 102nd anniversary of the restoration of independence. No public action was planned due to the Coronavirus epidemic, and no flags were displayed in the streets. No symbolic event was planned, where representatives of the government and the opposition would celebrate together. Some celebrated at Rustaveli Street near the former government palace, some on Mtatsminda near the grave of Kakutsa Cholokashvili, the hero of the 1924 uprising.
Today's Georgia considers itself the successor of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, which gained independence in 1918. It was announced on May 26th, 1921. It was occupied by Soviet Russia in February-March and forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. Post-Soviet Russia has not been freed from aggression against Georgia and currently occupies two regions of Georgia. Therefore, May 26th was a good opportunity to talk about Russia-Georgia relations. However, Georgia's top officials - the Prime Minister and the President - did not mention the country's main problem during the Independence Day celebrations - the Russian occupation and the creeping expansion of the occupation zone by borderization.
The occupation was mentioned only by the Speaker of the Parliament without any reference to the occupier: “The occupation of our territories continues and thousands of our fellow citizens are not allowed to return home.” However, the pro-Western part of the opposition didn’t avoid the main topic of Georgia-Russia relations and spoke about the Russian occupation.
While political leaders from around the world congratulated Georgia on Independence Day, the Russian government also remembered Georgia. It was on May 26th that Moscow expressed its concern over Lugar's laboratory, claiming that it posed a ‘biological threat’ and requested an inspection. Clearly, Lugar’s Lab poses no threat. On the contrary, the laboratory played an important role in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, which Georgia dealt more successfully with tham Russia.The opposition described the statement as another provocation and threat from Russia. Georgian authorities said that Russian observers could enter Lugar's laboratory but separately but only with representatives from other countries.
The main topic of Georgian politics is still the implementation of the March 8th agreement. After the pardon of Ugulava and Okruashvili by the President, Giorgi Rurua remains, whose trial has continued. The united opposition says it will not support constitutional changes unless Rurua is released. The opposition considers him a political prisoner, while the government claims that there are no political prisoners in the country.
After the lifting of the state of emergency, it became possible to renew the "universal-public discussion" of the constitutional amendments. If the government wants to fulfill this part of the March 8th agreement, it can make constitutional changes if the votes are mobilized in the parliament. If the government is looking for a reason to not meet the agreement, the boycott will work as the perfect excuse for it even though it poses the risk of exacerbating the tension and will send problematic messages to the West.
Meanwhile, one of the MPs and a bishop have openly made anti-Western statements. According to the MP, “we do not want such an America and the European Union to interfere in our internal affairs.” The bishop demanded a new plebiscite, saying that the people no longer wanted a Western orientation.
It was at this time that the results of the Transparency International-Georgia survey found that 56% of the population thought that Georgia should join NATO, even if it would strain relations with Russia. Almost half of the respondents (49% - 3% more than in 2019) think that Georgia should not have good neighborly relations with Russia without de-occupation. 39%, despite the occupation (5% less than last year), believe that Georgia should try to have good relations with Russia. Such a mood of the society is not a good background for a big pro-Russian turnaround. Clearly, those who do not like the results of the research can as usual say that they do not trust the results of the research, but it doesn’t take a survey to clear that the pro-Russian mood in the society does not dominate.
Prime Minister Gakharia's speech in parliament and subsequent debates captured two diametrically opposed images of the state of Georgia. According to Gakharia, Georgia is successfully coping with the epidemic and the economy is starting to work, and according to the anti-crisis 6-month program, the population will also receive assistance. The opposition sees the start of the pre-election campaign by the Georgian Dream in the government's anti-crisis program.
Gakharia has been widely criticized. Bringing one quote is enough to show the picture. “The Prime Minister came to the parliament empty-handed and empty-pocket. None of his words we heard here are trustworthy. Georgia is the only country in the world that has not helped its citizens with a single cent during the pandemic,” said one of the UNM leaders Roman Gotsiridze.
According to the opposition, the country is facing the most difficult problems and the government cannot solve them.
(Translated by Mariam Mchedlidze)