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Charter Fails to Fully Unite Georgia’s Political Forces
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 5 Sep.'08 / 18:47

Six political parties, including the ruling one, and two independent lawmakers signed on September 5 a document saying that they agree on “key strategic” issues for the country’s future development in the face of Russian aggression.

The four-point document - the Charter of Politicians of Georgia – is signed by the ruling National Movement Party and groups within the parliamentary minority, involving the Christian-Democratic Party; party On Our Own and two individual lawmakers, Giorgi Tsagareishvili and Gia Tortladze. The document has also been signed by the Georgian Troupe party; the National-Democratic Party and Industrialist Party.

The parties, which make up the opposition coalition, as well as some other opposition parties, including the Republican and Labor parties, have refused to sign, saying it is part of the authorities’ propaganda.

The document reads that the signatories agree that the improvement of “political relations” with Russia will only be possible after Russian occupation forces fully withdraw from Georgia.

The parties also agree that Georgia should become a NATO member and should “maximally integrate into the European Union.”

The third point of the document reads that internal political processes in Georgia “should always remain in the frames of the Constitution.”

The fourth point deals with the establishment of the President Saakashvili-proposed anti-crisis council for, as the document reads, “the purpose of tackling problems inflicted as a result of the Russian occupation; for democratization; for continuation of the process of internal reforms and for the creation of a political environment oriented towards dialogue.”

It also says that the anti-crisis council’s composition, functions and mandate will be developed, based on further political consultations.

In remarks made at the signing ceremony, Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairman, underlined that by signing the Charter, the parties and politicians were committing themselves not “to engage in any type of covert deal with external forces.”

“I will put it very bluntly, here I mean first and foremost, Russia,” he said. “I mean Russia, which will of course try to find a political foothold in Georgia against the background of the current situation.”

He said that the Charter was developed with the facilitation of the International Republican Institute.

Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the document was “impressive and important.”

“Georgia will not be quite the same after this [referring to the armed conflict] and this also has to be taken into account by the political establishment,” he said. “But what is important, at the same time, is to make sure that political discourse is kept within limits in the sense that some principles are established.”

Most opposition parties, however, have already rejected the document.

Kakha Kukava, co-leader of the Conservative Party – part of the opposition coalition - said it was yet another “propaganda” move by the authorities, adding that “the real opposition” would not accept it.

“This is an internal National Movement document and everyone has seen what kind of opposition is putting its signature to it,” he told Civil.Ge on September 5.

Kukava was referring to the parliamentary minority – consisting of the Christian-Democratic Party and some other individual politicians, who were part of the opposition coalition but quit it after the coalition decided not to enter Parliament following the May 21 elections.

Members of the New Rights Party, also part of the opposition coalition, said they would not sign the document either.

“We fully agree with the first three principles listed in the document and we have expressed many times our commitment to those principles both through our actions and through signing various documents previously,” Mamuka Katsitadze of the New Rights Party told Civil.Ge on September 5.

“But it is totally incomprehensible to listen to the government, which has Kakha Bendukidze as the head of the government’s administration - speaking about the Russian threat,” Katsitadze said. Bendukidze, a former state minister for economic reforms, who amassed wealth in Russia in the 1990s, is a regular opposition target, with claims that he lobbies Russian interests in Georgia.

“This document is simply a continuation of the August 12 and September 1 rallies, which purely aimed at the authorities’ attempts to rehabilitate Saakashvili both internally and internationally,” Katsitadze continued. “We will not be part of this democracy facade, because we have serious question to Saakashvili and he has to give answers.”

The same view has been expressed by the Republican Party.

The party leader, Davit Usupashvili, said at a news conference shortly after the document was signed, that his party fully shared the first three principles of the Charter.

“As far as the fourth principle is concerned - about setting up an anti-crisis council, which has unclear functions and composition - this is nothing but government propaganda,” Usupashvili said. “If the council has meaningful functions – which is less likely – then it will turn into a parallel body of the state agencies and that is unacceptable, especially in the current situation. And if it has no meaningful functions – which is more likely to happen – then it will turn into a chattering body.”

Usupashvili, however, said that the Republican Party was ready for issue-based consultations with the authorities.

“The Labor Party will not put its signature on paper signed by the authorities, which are suspected of multiple crimes,” Nestan Kirtadze of the Labor Party told Civil.Ge. “This document is more about helping the authorities themselves to overcome the crisis, rather than helping the country to overcome the crisis. We will sign a document that brings about the peaceful and constitutional replacement of the authorities.”

Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze said that the document was “open for joining” for the next three days, till September 8. He called on other parties to sign it

“This is not a document between the authorities and the opposition,” Bakradze said. “This is a document about our joint values, which is our country and its future… So I hope and I am sure others will also join it.”

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