Irakli Alasania, the leader of Alliance for Georgia, said that he wanted “to grab” chance for negotiations with President Saakashvili, but also added that the authorities should take tangible steps in order to increase public trust towards the negotiating process.
Speaking at BBC’s HARDtalk on May 12 he said that although the first meeting with President Saakashvili on May 11 ended without “tangible results,” he believed that it was “a new beginning.”
“And I do believe that the negotiations that will follow will have a chance and opportunity to discuss with the President further why we see the only way out… new presidential and parliamentary elections,” he said.
He said that the government should be “adequate to the interests of the society” and the opposition was ready to take discourse from the streets to the negotiating table.
At that point an anchor, Stephen Sackur, interrupted Alasania by saying: “You’ve already got me confused.” He told Alasania that on the one hand he was saying that the opposition wanted negotiations with the President and on the other hand he was saying that the President had to understand that he had to go. “Then what is to negotiate about?” the host asked.
“The President has to understand that there is a political crisis that needs to be resolved,” Alasania responded. “The ignorance that he is showing now towards population is only widening the crisis.”
“The prospect for negotiations is there,” he continued and added that the opposition had declared it was ready to negotiate, “but at the same time what we are countering from the President and the government is the terror that they undertake against the protesters” since the launch of street rallies on April 9.
The host again interrupted Alasania at that point and said that his remarks that the authorities were only offering was terror “is patently not true.” Then the host listed some of the proposals that President Saakashvili laid out on May 11 after talks with the opposition leaders, including constitutional and electoral reforms.
Alasania responded that by the first meeting on May 11 “foundation” had been laid and “we need to work further to make our positions closer.”
He, however, also said there was lack of trust towards the negotiating process itself, because of the past experience; he was referring to the opposition’s claims that the authorities have failed to follow commitments undertaken as a result of talks in previous years.
“There should be some steps made by the government to bring trust of people [towards] the negotiations and there are some steps that he can make even without participating of the opposition,” Alasania said and listed among those steps giving editorial independence to national broadcasters and also judiciary’s independence.
Alasania recalled the President Saakashvili’s speech at the UN last September, when he announced about the launch of “the new democratic initiatives that constitute the second Rose Revolution.” Alasania, however, said that the President failed to follow those commitments.
He said that ceasing of street protests rallies would depend on how the negotiating process would continue.
“If we get further in our talks with the government, of course the demands will be dropped and the people will get out of streets. But we need to get the trust of people towards the negotiations and we will have to see some results,” Alasania said.
He said that Saakashvili made Georgia “the country of one man.”
“We want to change this; we want to have more inclusive democracy; decision-making system should be institutionalized; we want to have balance of power between the parliament and the government,” Alasania said. “These are issues brought up to the negotiating table with the government.”
“So exactly this is something that I really want to grab on and I do believe that if the negotiations continue we will be able to achieve some grounds for compromise,” he said and but also added that the authorities should give up its policy of ignoring of the public protest.
He said that President’s Saakashvili sitting at the negotiating table with the opposition leaders was “a new reality.”
“We have to take this opportunity seriously; the government has to have responsibility,” Alasania said that added that if there was an opportunity for other meeting with the President the opposition would go “and discuss concrete issues: how to change judiciary; how to make the electoral code more adequate to the situation; how to compose the electoral commission… We have to talk about the public broadcaster.”
He acknowledged that there were “differences” among various opposition parties on the tactics, but he said it no way meant “differences in goals.”