Boycott turning into a split? What's going on in the Georgian opposition
The political crisis in Georgia that emerged after the October 31 parliamentary elections continues.
Most of the opposition, which considers the elections to be rigged and refused parliamentary mandates, have already announced that they will resume protests in February.
The main demand are to hold early parliamentary elections and release political prisoners. However, in all likelihood, the opposition at these rallies will no longer be as united as at the beginning of the struggle.
One of its participants, Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili, the leader of the Citizens movement, which gained about 1% of the vote in the elections, has left the opposition as a result of an acute conflict with his former political partners. Elisashvili said that he was breaking off relations with the rest of the opposition and would make a decision in a few days whether to enter parliament or not.
What is happening in the opposition today and at what stage is the political process three months after the elections?
After the October 31 parliamentary elections, the situation is as follows: the results of these elections are not recognized by eight opposition parties in Georgia, which have withdrawn most of their candidates.
The opposition made a joint decision to give up seats in parliament, embarrassing the ruling party, which will be represented in parliament alone and will have to explain to international partners why a democratic country has a legislative body similar to what one ‘might find in North Korea.’
As a result of this decision of the opposition, 90 MPs were present at the first session of the tenth convocation of parliament instead of 150, and all of them were representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream party. However, then the parliamentary picture began to gradually change.
First, there were four MPs in parliament who received mandates on the list of the opposition Alliance of Patriots. The Alliance itself and its leaders continue to boycott parliament. These four MPs left the party and formed a new party called the European Socialists.
As a result, the ruling Georgian Dream party now claims that the opposition is already represented in parliament. The entry of these four MPs into parliament was greeted by the opposition with more humor than anger, as they did not reflect the mood of the opposition spectrum.
According to experts, these MPs cannot create the “illusion of a multi-party system” because they are not politicians, but simply businessmen who wanted to become MPs.
Girchi and Citizens – opposition in the ranks of the opposition
The political association Citizens and Girchi party (the party itself recently split up and its leader Zurab Japaridze left to form a second Girchi party) cause much greater dissonance in the unity of the opposition.
These two parties, which received a total of five seats in parliament, do not exclude that they will enter parliament on certain conditions that they impose on the authorities. In particular:
- Any elections held in a country must be held under a fully proportional zero-barrier system
- Completely change the apparatus of the Central Election Commission
- Local self-government elections scheduled for autumn should become a kind of plebiscite – if the opposition wins in Georgia, early parliamentary elections should be held
- All political prisoners must be released. Here, first of all, we mean the scientists Iveri Melashvili and Natalya Ilyicheva, detained in the so-called “cartographers case”, and one of the founders of the opposition channel Mtavari Arkhi Giorgi Rurua.
- Georgia investigating ‘illegal transfer’ of territories to Azerbaijan. Details of the high-profile case
- Op-ed: NGOs on why the investigation of the ‘transfer of territory to Azerbaijan’ is politically motivated
- Georgian opposition TV channel co-founder sentenced to 4 years
The reaction of the rest of the opposition
The discontent of the rest of the opposition was caused, first of all, by the fact that Elisashvili and Girchi planned to negotiate on the above issues not in a single opposition format, but separately from everyone else.
Some politicians saw in their proposal an attempt to undermine the unity of the opposition.
The leader of the Strategy Agmashenebeli party, Giorgi Vashadze, believes that the proposals of Elisashvili and Girchi are tactically wrong and damage the process: “This may be acceptable, it may be unacceptable, but I think it would be wrong for only the opposition to constantly come up with the initiative for negotiations, when there is no progress on the part of the authorities,” Vashadze said.
One of the leaders of the European Georgia party, Gigi Ugulava, suggested that the opposition refuse to communicate with Citizens and Girchi, since, in his words, they are “gangrene that must be gotten rid of”. Nika Melia, chairman of the largest opposition party, United National Movement, said he was ready to meet with the leader of Citizens and discuss all issues in order to preserve the unity of the opposition.
The opposition has come down on Elisashvili for not criticizing the authorities, but the opposition in his recent public speeches: for example, Elisashvili says that Georgian Dream is ready to agree to the conditions put forward by him, but the leaders of the opposition parties are doing everything to disrupt these negotiations. Elisashvili also accused his opposition colleagues that, because of their position, it has not yet been possible to release political prisoners.
The Georgian Dream claims that Elisashvili’s and Girchi’s proposals can be discussed, but does not believe in dialogue with the opposition and claims that the leaders of the main opposition parties are not interested in negotiations.
“The plan of the United National Movement and European Georgia is probably to take advantage of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, to radicalize the processes and try to seize power,” said Beka Davituliani, an MP from the Georgian Dream.
Expert Gia Khukhashvili believes that Aleko Elisashvili, willingly or unwillingly, is on the side of the authorities:
“Elisashvili, in fact, distracts attention from the main problems in the country, people are worried about something completely different. And at this time he begins to attack the opposition … The reaction of the rest of the opposition also surprises me. They also remain in this controversy. If Aleko Elisashvili wants to enter [parliament], he must enter … This is his decision and let them be left behind. With debates with him in the studio, they only do good for the authorities,” says Khukhashvili.