New round of talks in Georgia

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TBILISI (TCA) — On December 20, 2019 Georgian authorities made a new proposal to the opposition on the electoral reform, in order to stabilize the situation. But opposition has rejected this proposal as too rigid. “Georgia is going to fall into an international isolation if the government would not agree to the principle of fair elections,” declared the statement by the so called United Opposition. The authorities have proposed the system that would have 100 members of the parliament elected on the proportional system and 50 members on the majoritarian system. So the system would be changed — with two thirds elected by proportionate system, while maintaining the mixed system with one third majoritarians. According to this proposal these constitutional changes would be made not just for the year of 2020, but for good. And this proposal is absolutely unacceptable for the opposition at this point. The initiative by the ruling coalition was voiced by Chairman of the Parliament, Archil Talakvadze.

Opposition has pledged to continue on with protest actions and national disobedience campaign. On December 22 two serious events were held by opposition parties. One took place in the large port city of Batumi, where the so called United Opposition has held a large rally with several thousand people present. “Bidzina Ivanishvili, you will either agree to satisfy demands of the entire Georgian Nation for proportional elections – or you would have to leave Georgia, just like Aslan Abashidze – Adjaria’s last semi-feudal ruler in 2004 and since then we had every election without him,” said former Vice Speaker of the Parliament Murman Dumbadze. These demands were also loaded by the members of the same opposition coalition: David Berdzenishvili, Gia Baramidze, Zaal Udumashvili, Gigi Ugulava, Giga Bokeria and others. Most of the people who assembled in Batumi represent former Governments, United National Movement of Saakashvili and Republican Party that is led by brothers Berdzenishvili.

THE NEW POLITICAL PARTY WAS FOUNDED VIRTUALLY AT THE SAME TIME AS THE RALLY IN BATUMI WAS GOING ON. ‘LELO FOR GEORGIA’ IS ITS NAME — ‘LELO IN GEORGIAN MEANS TOUCH DOWN”. Touch-downers are led by the former chief of TBC Bank Mamuka Khazaradze, who is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Georgia of the last 30 years. Together with him the touch-down party has united members of ‘party of builders’ led by former Parliament Speaker, David Usupashvili and ‘New Rights’ led by Mrs. Pikria Chikhradze. In contrast with National Movement and its satellite parties Touch-Down Party has proposed more constructive and positive approach to building democratic and Western Oriented Georgia. They have incorporated different progressive youths in their camp, including Grigol Gegelia, Irakli Kupradze and other Social-Democratic leaning politicians together with leading bankers and “New Rights”. To many observers this kind of unity might seem a bit eclectic, but according to many experts people are so hungry for the NEW FORCE that this new political unity of left and right can gain around 40 percent vote if they manage to distance themselves from the ruling party and former ruling coalition, but at the same time have a positive agenda on economy and social policy. According to expert Gia Khukhashvili, economy is one of the main issues for the upcoming elections in Georgia and ‘Touch-Down’ needs to be made on this front. ‘LELO FOR GEORGIA’ also supports the proportionate system as well as the majority of opposition parties.

The talks are going to continue in January. American Charge d’Affairs in Georgia, Elizabeth Rood has declared that she hopes that the next round of talks that is scheduled for January will bring more concrete results. International mediators hope that these talks will bring more results and all parties will be able to reach consensus on electoral reform.

At the same time, the extreme right wing group called “Georgian March” has escalated its rhetoric on December 22. Sandro Bregadze, one of the leaders of this group, has declared that he and his friends will fight with the arms in their hands if the UNM and its allies will come back to power. He has accused Giga Bokeria, Gia Baramidze and other leaders of UNM of being participants in deposing the first Georgian President, Zviad K. Gamsakhurdia. According to the expert, David Ioramashvili, “Georgian March” is being led by Moscow led forces, namely former security minister of Georgia, Igor Giorgadze.

Leader of another right wing group, ‘Alternative for Georgia’ Konstantine Morgoshia has declared that if the new force will not come to power in Georgia in 2020 elections, “there will be a big bloodshed”. According to Morgoshia, the authorities in Georgia have lost the legitimacy and power needs to be transferred to the nationalist forces.

According to the sources within the government January promises to be interesting in Georgia since we are going to witness certain new developments, including maybe the consensual agreement between the authorities and the opposition. This will certainly help to preserve at least some level of stability in Georgia.

* Irakli Zurab Kakabadze is the Chair of Gandhi Foundation Georgia, and has taught at Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and was an editor in chief of Peace Times magazine