The Georgian opposition parties that launched a wave of protest on April 9 to demand the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili decided on April 11 to suspend further actions for 24 hours to mark Palm Sunday.
Opposition leaders have retreated slightly from their initial categorical rejection of the dialogue that senior officials have repeatedly called for over the past two weeks.
Irakli Alasania of the Alliance for Georgia reportedly proposed during the April 10 rally talks between opposition representatives and Saakashvili personally in the presence of respected public figures outside politics. But some protest participants reacted angrily to that option, whereupon an opposition politician (who specifically is not clear) suggested that the talks should be televized.
Parliament speaker David Bakradze in turn rejected that suggestion as "not oriented towards achieving results," telling the television channel Rustavi-2 late on April 10 that "we are in favor of a dialogue and not in favor of TV shows.... What they are offering us is televized debates, not a meaningful dialogue."
He added that there would be "no problem" in conducting a dialogue in the presence of representatives of civil society, but that Saakashvili's personal participation would be contingent on guarantees of "normal political cooperation."
On April 11, Alasania said talks with Saakashvili, if they take place, will not be televized
. Alasania argued that there is a difference between "public" and "transparent" dialogue, implying that the substance of the talks should not be made public
while they are continuing.
Similarly disputed is the agenda for any such talks. Government representatives, and Saakashvili in his statement of April 10, have consistently listed three broad topics: national security; economic problems; and gradual political reforms, including revising the election law and holding direct elections for the post of mayor of Tbilisi. That post is currently held by Givi Ugulava, a close Saakashvili ally.
The opposition initially insisted that the only acceptable topic for discussion was Saakashvili's resignation.
But on April 11, David Gamkrelidze, head of the New Rightists who are part of Alasania's Alliance for Georgia, told journalists that "we consider Saakashvili's resignation the only way to overcome the crisis. But if the authorities have some other meaningful proposals for overcoming the crisis, let them tell us, although we do not think that direct election of the mayor of Tbilisi in 2010 will help."