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Opposition Divided on Tactics
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Sep.'08 / 20:33

Some opposition groups have called for a meaningful, internationally-mediated dialogue with the authorities to reshape the electoral system and secure free broadcast media with the eventual goal of holding early parliamentary elections, rather than a presidential poll. Others, however, are more radical, demanding President Saakashvili’s immediate resignation.

The Conservative Party, the Party of People and former presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, who was the main rival to Mikheil Saakashvili in the January 5 presidential polls, signed a joint declaration on September 17, laying out four demands.

“Lifting restrictions from private TV stations” and changing the public TV’s leadership in order to ensure editorial independence – is the first demand listed in the document; followed by a call for “an independent investigation” into the events that led to the war; the third one is a demand for the dismissal of the heads of “power-wielding structures,” namely the Interior Ministry and its subordinate structures, as well as the Ministry of Defense. The forth demand reads: “Adoption of a new election code, which will secure free and fair elections.”

The text of the document also reads: “Defusing the crisis will only be possible through a political dialogue and through early parliamentary and presidential elections.” The document, however, does not call for the immediate resignation of Saakashvili.

Zviad Dzidziguri, co-leader of the Conservative Party, said that dialogue should be mediated by “international organizations, which should serve as guarantors” of any subsequent agreements with the authorities.

The Movement for United Georgia, a party founded by ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, has refused to endorse the declaration. The party, along with the Conservative Party and the Party of People, is part of the opposition coalition that ran on a joint ticket in the May 21 parliamentary elections. Eka Beselia, co-leader of the Movement of United Georgia, said on September 17 that the party shared the demands laid out in the document, but added that President Saakashvili’s immediate resignation remained a point of contention.

She said that her party wanted Saakashvili to resign, and to have early parliamentary and presidential elections before spring 2009.

The New Rights Party on September 9 also called for the president’s resignation. The New Rights Party was also part of the opposition coalition.

The Republican Party’s position seems to be closer to the one laid out by the two opposition parties and Levan Gachechiladze on September 17. The Republican Party is in favor of gradual changes, involving comprehensive reform of the election system and constitutional amendments that would eventually lead to internationally-administered parliamentary elections, in spring 2009.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary minority – in which the Christian-Democratic Party is the leading force – has remained aloof from the calls for early elections. On September 4 the Christian-Democratic Party issued a statement laying out its vision in the aftermath of the war. The document called for a parliamentary probe into the events that had led to the war, but said nothing about early polls.

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