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Saakashvili on Opposition Boycott of Adjara Polls
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Oct.'08 / 14:19

President Saakashvili said that “transparent” local elections in Adjara were a matter of Georgian “prestige” and “national security,” and suggested that opposition parties boycotting the polls were in fact “harming” the country by trying to create “a perception of chaos.”

“The easiest way is to announce a boycott,” he said at a meeting with a group of students at Tbilisi State University on October 17.

“When you are deliberately taking actions aimed at harming your own country, because you are too lazy to engage in the election campaign and saying: let’s at least harm them [the authorities] and act in a guerrilla manner, blowing up everything and creating a perception of chaos in order to harm them [the authorities] – such a stance is not correct, because by doing so we are harming the country. There are some parties running in the elections and we welcome the active engagement of every party in the political process,” Saakashvili said.

“A transparent election is a matter of prestige for us,” he said, adding that no reason should be given to the international community to say that Georgia is not a democracy. He suggested that a perceived lack of democracy in Georgia would give the EU the pretext to stop pressuring Russia over Georgia. “So the level of democracy is a matter of our national security as well,” he added.

Seven parties are contesting 18 seats in the Adjara Autonomous Republic’s local parliament – the Supreme Council.

Two of them – the Christian-Democratic Party and On Our Own party – make up the parliamentary minority. The other five parties are: the ruling National Movement Party; the Georgian Troupe; Industrialists; the Georgian Politics and the United Communist Party of Georgia.

Most opposition parties, including those that were part of the opposition coalition, have decided to boycott the elections. Although the Conservative Party decided to formally register, it said it had done so to take advantage of the televised airtime allocated to parties during the electoral campaign to call on voters to boycott the election and to push its own agenda.

Most opposition parties boycotting the elections cite the new political realities, they say, have emerged since the August war. The Labor Party, however, announced its boycott before August. Parties that were part of the opposition coalition, as well as the Republican Party, say that there are more important priorities now than the local elections in Adjara, including working out joint opposition tactics on how to achieve an early general election.

The opposition parties say they are holding consultations on the matter, but they have not yet produced a joint view on the tactics. Most of them agree that the anniversary of the break-up of a protest rally a year ago by the authorities should be marked on November 7 with a protest rally; but it still remains unclear whether it will be just a symbolic demonstration or will the opposition use the rally to push for political demands – including early parliamentary elections.

President Saakashvili, meanwhile, also said on October 16 that he was in favor of dialogue with the opposition and again brought up the example of the Anti-Crisis Council as a demonstration of this readiness. The Council has, however, also been boycotted by most opposition parities. It does, however, include parties in the parliamentary minority. These parties, according to those boycotting Parliament, are merely “satellite parties” of the government’s.

“It is important to have an exchange of views [between the opposition and the authorities] and not to speak with each other through loudspeakers,” Saakashvili said.

He also acknowledged that in the past the government had made mistakes for not listened to dissenting voices. He said that the public did not like “the government being aplomb.” “The public wants us to be permanently engaged in dialogue,” he said.

Most opposition parties are also boycotting the majoritarian MP by-elections in two single-mandate consistencies in Tbilisi, also scheduled for November 3. The ruling party has also refused to nominate candidates for these constituencies.

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