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Opposition Snubs Ruling Party’s ‘Imitation of Dialogue’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 Apr.'09 / 20:54

Several opposition parties, which are among organizers of protest rallies planned from April 9, said they were not accepting the ruling party’s proposal to launch a dialogue on three topics, describing the offer as “an imitation of dialogue.”

The ruling National Movement Party called on the opposition on March 31 to start talks on the three most urgent issues involving economy, security and national interests and democratic reforms; no early elections were among the list of proposals.

“Proposals put forth by the parliamentary majority are inadequate,” eight opposition parties said in a joint statement released on April 1.

The joint statement is signed by the Alliance for Georgia (involving New Rights Party, Republican Party and Irakli Alasania’s political team); Democratic Movement–United Georgia (led by Nino Burjanadze); Georgia’s Way (led by Salome Zourabichvili); Movement for United Georgia (founded by ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili); Party of People (led by Koba Davitashvili); Conservative Party (leaders – Kakha Kukava and Zviad Dzidziguri). Levan Gachechiladze, a former opposition presidential candidate, has joined the statement as an individual politician.

“The country is in a grave political crisis and the public mistrust towards the authorities has reached its peak,” the statement reads. “[The ruling party’s] proposal is yet another attempt to mislead the society and the international community and to distract attention from real problems through imitation of a dialogue.”

“In the existing situation, we deem replacing the current authorities peacefully and through constitutional means as the only topic for a dialogue and we are ready to publicly talk on this matter personally with Mikheil Saakashvili,” the statement reads.

The presentation of the ruling party’s proposals for the dialogue on March 31 was attended by Dimitri Shashkin, the minister for probation and penitentiary system. President Saakashvili tasked Shashkin to coordinate the government’s efforts in frames of the new wave of democratization.

Shashkin said that an invitation has been sent to all the opposition parties to have a meeting for April 2. Meanwhile on April 1, Shashkin met with a group of Tbilisi-based western diplomats and informed them about the authorities’ proposals. After the meeting Shashkin said that he was ready to negotiate with any opposition party, which would accept the invitation to discuss democratic reforms, including ideas related with possible constitutional reform.

Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), which is a leading party in the parliamentary minority group, is likely to accept the invitation. Levan Vepkhvadze, a vice-speaker of the parliament from CDM, said that now all the channels of dialogue should be used. He also said that he did not think it would wise to reject the proposal as it would give a pretext to the ruling party to claim that the opposition was not disposed for a dialogue.

In the joint statement on April 1, the group of opposition parties also said: “Results of national plebiscite have again expressed a firm will of the Georgian citizens about the holding of early presidential elections; the society will respond to the authorities’ proposals on April 9.”

“National plebiscite” mentioned in the statement is a reference to a campaign carried out by the Alliance for Georgia involving asking voters whether they want or not early presidential elections. The plebiscite, which is of an informal nature without any legal consequences, is considered to have only “a moral boost” to the opposition’s drive to force the authorities to hold the early presidential elections, according to the Alliance for Georgia. The Alliance has claimed that 402,803 voters participated in it and 86.52% of them said they were in favor of early polls. The Alliance said that its activists were conducting the plebiscite through “door-to-door campaigning.” The ruling party lawmakers have downplayed the campaign and questioned its credibility.

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