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Georgian Opposition Unveils Counterproposals

An opposition rally in front of the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi on May 19.

An opposition rally in front of the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi on May 19.

The Georgian opposition parties that aligned to launch a campaign on April 9 to demand the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili unveiled on May 18 a broader six-point plan for implementing political reforms.

That plan, which the opposition wants implemented by May 26, is intended as a response to proposals Saakashvili made one week earlier in the hope of ending the monthlong political standoff between the authorities and opposition. Opposition leaders have rejected those proposals as too little, too late.

The first stage of the plan entails Saakashvili's resignation and the scheduling of an early presidential election, and the holding in the fall of 2009 of free and fair parliamentary elections and elections for the post of mayor of Tbilisi. The current Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, was named to that post by Saakashvili and is believed to be one of his closest allies.

The second point comprises enacting constitutional changes to make possible the scheduling of the early parliamentary ballot, and holding a plebiscite on further constitutional amendments. The nature of those proposed additional changes was not specified, but they could entail choosing between a presidential and parliamentary republic.

The third demand is the dismissal of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili (believed to be the eminence grise behind President Saakashvili) and of Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, after which consultations are to be held between the authorities and opposition on who should replace them; the Interior Ministry is to be reorganized to designate as autonomous various security agencies currently subordinate to it.

The fourth and fifth demands are the replacement respectively of the Supreme Court chairman and of the chairman of the Central Election Commission, again by candidates selected in consultation with the opposition. A working group would then be created to draft a new Election Law.

The sixth demand focuses on strengthening the freedom and objectivity of the media by replacing the director-general and board of trustees of the Public Broadcaster; transferring the management of that broadcaster's second channel to a group of political experts; and returning to its rightful legal owners of the Imedi TV station.

Earlier on May 18, the EU's special representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, met in Tbilisi with opposition party leaders for the fifth time in as many weeks. Republican Party leader David Usupashvili was quoted by Caucasus Press as saying during that meeting that the proposals President Saakashvili made on May 11 during his talks with four opposition leaders do not differ significantly from proposals the authorities made in September 2008, and that "nothing has been done" in terms of implementing last September's proposals.

Speaking to journalists later on May 18, Semneby hailed the May 11 meeting between Saakashvili and the four opposition figures as "a good start" that should be followed up with talks on "concrete issues" such as constitutional reform and election- and media-related issues. "I think everybody acknowledges that there need to be constitutional changes in Georgia. The constitution has to reflect a consensus view in society about how the country is governed," he said.

As before, the likelihood of Saakashvili voluntarily relinquishing the post of president before his second term expires in January 2013 remains minimal. He declared on May 18 that the events of recent weeks, presumably meaning the dwindling public support for the opposition's demands he should resign, show that Georgia is leaving "street politics and extremism" behind.

Saakashvili went on to praise the "good dialogue" under way with those parliamentary opposition parties that have agreed to participate in the work of the new constitutional commission, and also with unnamed "responsible" and "realistic" figures within the extraparliamentary opposition. At the same time, he implied that the more radical opposition parties are financially dependent on "those who wish us ill," meaning of course Russia.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.