Georgia's New Rights Party Calls for Saakashvili to Resign
by Paul Goble

On-going series: Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
The Russian / Georgian Conflict and Its Impact on Azerbaijan

Window on Eurasia: Original Blog Article

Vienna, September 9 - Georgia's New Rights Party, which had refrained from criticizing the Georgian government during the war with Russia, says that Georgia must admit that "there was a war in the country and [Georgia] lost it and that President Mikheil Saakashvili, who bears responsibility for allowing Tbilisi to be drawn into a Russian trap, must resign."

The party's press release notes that "more than a thousand citizens of Georgia" were injured or killed, the number of IDPs and refugees is more than 100,000, that the Georgian military has been "destroyed, demoralized and disarmed," and that Georgia has "totally lost its reliability" as a place for outside investment.

Worst of all, the press release says, "one-third of Georgian territory has been occupied and annexed by Russia," the "outcome of a big shady enterprise into which our country was pulled." And as a result, any chance that Georgia will be included in NATO in the near term has almost certainly been lost.

The underlying reasons for this tragedy, the New Rights Party says, is "Russia's imperial policy" and its desire to control Georgia and the pipelines flowing through it, on the one hand, and Georgia's aspirations for freedom, "real independence," and membership in Western institutions, on the other.

But the release goes on to say that the Georgian government bears some responsibility as well. Its "ill-considered and emotional policy regarding Russia, Abkhazia and the former South Ossetia" which were crafted for "internal PR" and President Mikhail Saakashvili's decision to bomb Tskhinvali represented "a fatal step for Georgia.

In doing so, Saakashvili led Georgia into a Russian trap, something the United States, the European Union, and many in Georgia itself had warned against. But "despite these cautionary notices, Saakashvili single-handedly took the irresponsible and criminal decision" to use military force in this way, something that virtually guaranteed a Russian military response.

"Consequently," the New Rights Party says, "Mikheil Saakashvili no longer has the political or moral right to be the president and commander in chief of Georgia. He should resign," and elections for both a new president and a new parliament should be organized, "the media freed," and constitutional reforms "carried out to establish real and effective democracy."

Given recent moves by the Georgian president, the press release concludes, "we are certain that the authorities [in Tbilisi] and the mass media controlled by them will declare us to be enemies, traitors and Russian spies," but if speaking the truth in Georgia generates such attacks, "then we are ready to accept even such slander" for the good of Georgia.

As long as Russia's military actions in Georgia were in the active phase, the Georgian opposition remained relatively quiet inside the country, because its members did not want to do anything that might weaken Georgia and did not want to do anything that might look as if it were bowing to Russian demands.

President Saakashvili counted on such calculations, clearly aware that after the war, many Georgians would raise questions about his decisions and their impact on Georgia. What is surprising is not that such questions are being asked so insistently but that they are being asked so soon.

And that in turn almost certainly points to new political turmoil in Georgia, as President Saakashvili and his supporters try to hold on to their posts, despite the recent debacle, Georgian opposition figures call for investigations and resignations, and Moscow, both directly and through its people on the ground, seeks to exploit all of this.

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