Georgian Opposition to Saakashvili Unites Under Human Rights Banner
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

Eagles Mere, PA, October 2 ­ Forty-five leading Georgian politicians yesterday created a Movement for Freedom and Justice to oppose the policies of Mikhail Saakashvili under the banner of the defense of civil rights, even as former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze stepped up the pressure on his regime by demanding answers to 43 questions about the war.

Following the release of his highly critical report about Saakashvili's authoritarianism, Georgian ombudsman Sozar Subari assembled a group of opposition figures on Tuesday "to prepare a plan on what is needed for the salvation of the country." That meeting led to the creation of the new movement.

The new movement, he said, "will be based on the unity and solidarity of those who are concerned about the situation that has been created in Georgia" and who want to rescue and advance "those ideals which define the norms of life of a free society" and overcome what he and the other members say is "the defeat of Georgia in the war with Russia."

The group's manifesto declares that "as a result of the barbaric aggression of Russia in Georgia, the most difficult situation has arisen: many peaceful residents and military people have died, tens of thousands of citizens have become victims of ethnic cleansing," and Tbilisi has "lost control" over even more parts of the country.

"The defeat of Georgia," it continues, "was the result of the actions of the authoritarian administration in the country ­ the Georgian leadership lost the ability to take correct decisions ­ and Russia used that to realize its long planned seizure of territory, as a result of which Georgia and her people suffered," while the Georgian president concerned himself "only with PR."

And it declares that the country should immediately move to implement the 12 measures Subari had outlined in his report for the re-establishment of democracy, including an end to persecution of people for their views, the creation of an independent judiciary, and the setting up of procedures for free and fair elections.

Among those who signed the group's manifesto were Levan Gachechiladze, the leader of the United Opposition, Salome Zurabishvili, the head of the Path of Georgia Party, Kakha Kukava of the Conservative Party and Eka Beseliya, the leader of the Movement for a United Georgia, as well as political activists, lawyers, and journalists.

The group said that it will hold a meeting a week from tomorrow at which time its leaders said, they would announce a plan of action designed to restore democracy in Georgia, either by bringing pressure on Saakashvili to change course or changing the occupant of the country's highest office.

Both Subari's report and the emergence of this group may help to explain President Saakashvili's speech at the United Nations General Assembly where, as Caucasus Knot pointed out, he promised to introduce "a series of democratic reforms, including greater independence for the parliament and the courts" and even talked about "a second Rose Revolution."

But Saakashvili won few points for these remarks from the signatories of this manifesto, reported. They were openly skeptical about his words, seeing them as an effort to create the appearance but not the reality of democracy in order to deceive not only the Georgian people but Western leaders as well.

And consequently, they called on Saakashvili "to find in himself the strength and to put the interests of the country and the people above personal ones and, thus, effectively guarantee in the country full, unqualified and irreversible democracy," rather than to continue to deceive himself and others with a simulacrum of that system.

Meanwhile, today, Nino Burjanadze, the former chair of the Georgian parliament who currently heads the Tbilisi Foundation for Democracy and Development announced that has prepared a list of 43 questions for President Saakashvili and his government about the August events

Among them are the following: Why did Tbilisi not know that Russia was preparing to intervene militarily and thus take actions to protect the Georgian people? Why did Tbilisi ignore "numerous and direct warnings of Georgia's friends not to yield to Russia's provocations?" And why did Tbilisi launch Georgia's military action in South Ossetia?

Was the purpose of this action "the restoration of constitutional order," as Saakashvili has maintained. "Or," she asks, "something else?" Were alternatives discussed? And why did the Georgian authorities not evacuate Georgian citizens likely or even certain to be affected by a Russian invasion?

The list continues with questions about who gave the order for which action, who promised to warn the population but did not, and under what authority did this or that official act, given that the Georgian president largely ignored the people's elected representatives in the parliament.

"The authorities claim that they have answers to all the questions," Burjanadze said at a Tbilisi press conference, and consequently, "we expect their public answers" very soon. And depending on what they are, she said as she had earlier on September 12th, she and others will decide on their future course of action.

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