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Georgian politics amid acute controversy

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, February 24
The arrest of the new leader of the United National Movement party Nika Melia has become a great controversy in Georgian politics. His arrest which the prosecutor's office demanded makes it impossible to continue negotiations between the government and the opposition. The hope of reaching an agreement will disappear, the Georgian Dream will retain the system of repression, with the opposition following the path of the protests which have already begun.

Georgian political spectrum is in the process of renewal and Nika Melia is one of the emerging politicians. Nika Melia is the leader of the main opposition party National Movement who refused to obey the rules of the Georgian Dream and again made the 2019 elections relevant, the night of June 20, and the events that followed. On June 20, a member of the Russian Duma, communist Sergei Gavrilov arrived in Georgia as part of a meeting of Orthodox parliamentarians and found himself in the seat of the Parliament Chairman. The appearance of this image on TV provoked a mass protest and Gavrilov and other visiting parliamentarians were immediately forced to leave the parliament building. People gathered at the rally were shot with rubber bullets. Several people lost their eyesight, many received physical injuries. In these events, the Georgian Dream thought it saw the society's attempt at a coup, and MP Nika Melia was considered one of its organizers. Melia was sentenced to bail and forced to wear a tracking bracelet for the police to keep track of his location at all times.

Nika Melia demonstratively removed his bracelet and refused to wear it during the protests that broke out after the October 31 parliamentary elections. A few months later, the court ordered him to pay additional bail at the request of the Prosecutor's Office. Melia refused to pay, citing the fact that the bail had already been paid and the prosecution's accusation of attempting a coup was absurd.

The opposition has again accused the government of pursuing Putin's policies, distancing Georgia from the West and trying to bring the country within the Russian orbit. It must be noted that pro-Russianism is the gravest accusation in the current Georgian reality and the Georgian Dream categorically denies that they "are playing Putin's game." On the contrary, it was claimed that Saakashvili and the United National Movement were carrying out Putin's orders and that Gavrilov was aiding the United National Movement.

The court upheld the prosecutor's request, paving the way for Melia's arrest. Nika Melia and his supporters have been observing the ongoing events in the UNM office. The opposition, which refused to enter parliament, united to defend Nika Melia, promising they would prevent Melia's arrest. In other words, the police would not only have to raid the office of the main opposition party and arrest the leader of that party but also use force against the entire political spectrum in the boycott regime.

The turn of events reminded some experts of Bidzina Ivanishvili in a state of extreme controversy.

The turn of events reminded some experts of Bidzina Ivanishvili in a state of extreme controversy. In their view, the oligarch's next departure from politics was an attempt to not take responsibility for the future events to develop. The opposition claims that Georgia is already resembling Putin's Russia, and if the Georgian Dream does not face opposition, a one-party parliament will be transformed into an autocratic government and a Russian satellite authoritarian regime will be established.

It is symbolic that the opposition announced its first rally on February 25. On this day, 1921, the Russian Red Army sent by Lenin invaded Tbilisi and announced the establishment of a Soviet regime in Georgia. Even after Georgia declared the restoration of independence, achieved international recognition, it still cannot completely escape the Russian occupation. Post-Soviet Russia has long waged a permanent hybrid war against Georgia, which in 2008 escalated into a direct military attack. Opposition groups called for a halt to the protests on February 25. The Georgian Dream has already announced that it will hold a celebratory event with the participation of foreign ambassadors on February 21, the 100th anniversary of the adoption of Georgia's first constitution, adding that it will be awarding Irakli Kobakhidze with the Parliamentary Order of Freedom.

The opposition has announced another rally on March 31, marking 30 years since the referendum, based on which Georgia declared the restoration of state independence. Unfortunately, Georgia is celebrating the anniversary of the restoration of independence while facing an intense domestic political controversy.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)