Shevardnadze Forces the Parliament into Crisis

Civil Georgia Analysis

President Eduard Shevardnadze speaking on national television yesterday, October 31, announced that he would step down if the parliament decides to dismiss the Minister of Interior and the Prosecutor General.

Thus the president attempted to exacerbate confrontation within the parliament to render it incapable of taking any decision on its special session that opened today, November 1.

According to the Georgian constitution Parliamentary Chairman assumes interim presidency if the acting president fails to perform his duties. Thus, in case President Shevardnadze lives up to his pledge, Zurab Zhvania will assume the interim post before the new presidential elections are held.

As Georgian constitution has no provision for the preliminary elections Zhvania will have to conclude Shevardnadze’s term expiring in 2005.

Zurab Zhvania, regarded as the leader of the “new reformer” faction of the Citizens Union of Georgia (CUG) has been in focus of Georgia’s political confrontation since summer 2001, when his possible appointment to the prime-ministerial position was put forward by Shevardnadze.

Then the opposition factions bitterly confronted Zhvania’s rise to executive powers. His accession would herald bolstering the force of the team of reformers who would, allegedly, seal off the chances for executive positions for the opposition forces.

Opposition forced the parliament into crisis in fall 2001. Later, President Shevardnadze made pro-conservative choices stripping Zhvania of his nominal support. As a result the Citizens Union collapsed when Shevardnadze stepped down from its chairmanship.

Zhvania and his teammates, notably the former Justice Minister Mikheil Saakashvili, were rapidly losing their grip on executive powers. Saakashvili stepped down on September 19 announcing: “the reform of the government from within is impossible.”

Zurab Zhvania was openly on a collision course with Shevardnadze since early 2001, demanding urgent action for curbing climbing corruption rates and government incompetence. The most venom was directed against Kakha Targamadze, head of the Interior Minister regarded the most corrupt executive institution.

Thus the Rustavi 2 events only detonated what has remained the bitter under-the-carpet crisis of the Georgian government during the most of current year. And although the Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze is unpopular within all political parties, President Shevardnadze’s last move gives the opposition a clear perspective – Targamadze’s demise will mean Zhvania’s raise to presidential powers.

Shevardnadze knows, that this is an alternative most political forces can not afford.

Two draft resolutions submitted for review during the morning session of the parliament show that the MPs took the presidential bait.

The first draft endorsed by Zurab Zhvania calls for resignation of the Interior Minister and the Prosecutor General. Conversely, the opposition version presented by “New Right” and “Socialist” factions calls for resignation of the whole government, but also of the parliament leadership. Amendments to the constitution are proposed, that will make preliminary general and presidential elections possible.

Parliament tries to seek the compromise, but if the constructive dialogue proves impossible, the situation beyond the parliamentary walls, where more than 5.000 protesters call for resignation of the Interior Minister and Prosecutor General, can slip out of control pushing Georgia further down the road of instability.