April 15, 2009
Demonstrations against President Mikhail Saakashvili continued fifth day on April 13th in Georgia. Consolidated opposition demands president’s resignation, early presidential and parliamentary elections being held in the spring 2009. So far the participation to protests is not enough to implement Rose Revolution II but two new regional questions have potential to develop conflicts and change political geography once again.
Critics accuse Mr Saakashvili, who came to power on the back of the 2003 Rose Revolution, of monopolising power and exerting pressure on the judiciary and the media. Last year’s war, when Russia crushed a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia and caused also separation of other breakaway province – Abkhazia are added to his other crucial mistakes.
During previous demonstration in 2007, Saakashvili deployed the military and successfully — though violently — crushed the protests. But that demonstration consisted of 15,000 protesters. Now the first time all 17 opposition parties have consolidated enough to organize a mass movement in the country. Furthermore, many members of the government – who were leading also Rose I – are joining the cause.
Some 60,000 people turned out on Thursday for the first day of demonstrations – but far fewer were visible on Friday. About 10,000 people protested Saturday 11.4.2009 in three locations: in front of parliament, outside Saakashvili’s residence and at the headquarters of the main state television channel, where they called for the demonstrations to be broadcast live.
The Georgian opposition reversed its previous decision to hold a break for Palm Sunday and resume protests on Monday after the opposition’s press center, set up in front of the Georgian parliament’s building, was attacked by unidentified assailants on the night of April 11-12. Opposition leaders said a 50-strong mob had attacked the venue, tearing banners and ripping out computer cables at a stage set up outside parliament as dozens of protesters prepared to spend a third night on the street. Police, however, said protesters had set on street cleaners who arrived to clear the site of litter. (Source Newsdaily)
Georgia’s political opposition will erect fake jail cells at sites across Tbilisi to symbolize the country turning into a police state and to symbolise imprisoned democracy.
Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti
There is also concern that protests are planned in the Georgian secessionist region of Adjara, which rose up against and rejected Saakashvili’s government in 2004 after the Rose Revolution. This region was suppressed by Saakashvili once and has held a grudge ever since, looking for the perfect time to rise up again. Tbilisi especially wants to keep Adjara under its control because it is home to the large port of Batumi, and many of Georgia’s transport routes to Turkey run through it.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Batumi 9th April with demand president’s resignation. Movement for “Fair Georgia” representative said they will hold similar rallies on May 6 if the president refuses to resign.
If Adjara rises up, there are rumors in the region that its neighboring secessionist region, Samtskhe-Javakheti, will join in to help destabilize Saakashvili and the government. Georgia already officially lost its two northern secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russian occupation during the August 2008 war and is highly concerned with its southern regions trying to break away.
In Samtskhe-Javakheti, an isolated, predominantly ethnic Armenian region in the country’s south there is a risk that socio-economic problems may turn into ethnic problems. The financial decline, crisis in central government and ethnic question makes the region a potential conflict region.
Hot early summer starting
Georgia is living now crucial moments if there will be Rose Revolution II or not. My point of view is that three aspects will show the direction:
First if opposition can get more supporters on the streets, President can manage today’s demonstrations, but if there is over 100,000 protesters this could be enough for revolution.
Second aspect is if there will be enough support for change outside Tbilisi and especially if the two secessionist regions see opportunity now implement wide autonomy.
Third aspect is the response of present government and President, violence can develop situation worse at least mid term, negotiations and concessions can divide opposition.
Georgia is not isolated state in Europe, it is only one flashpoint in northern Black Sea region. In Moldova some activities started last week, in Ukraine triangle drama between two governing parties and opposition is erupting anytime soon boosted next gas bill and rising ethnic tensions. Neighbour Balkans has its own tensions and the big game about energy and sphere of influence is going on between U.S., EU and Russia. Anyway that part of world can be a little bit different after this year.
My earlier articles over Georgia
- OSCE report fault Georgia – one trivialstatement more from EU Summit
- Spark, Fire and Water: Kosovo-Georgia