A joint statement of the Georgian political parties to oppose government’s tolerance towards growing crime rates spurred support of the national non-governmental organizations. On July 19 an unprecedented meeting of the NGO and political party leaders was convened to discuss these agendas.
Representatives of the civil society presented the leaders of the parties a draft of the joint statement, which condemns violence and criminalization of the society and criticizes the government for its inability to prevent the crimes, but also for the seemingly tolerant attitude of the government towards these alarming trends.
One week earlier leaders of 8 parties gathered in the office of the National-Democratic party to protest pardoning of the two top operatives of the notorious Mkhedrioni paramilitary unit that terrorized Georgia in mid-1990s. Upon release under president’s pardon, Temur Khachishvili, who served sentence for a terrorist attack on the president, stated during the live broadcast that he would do everything to prevent Mikheil Saakashvili (leader of the New National Movement) and Zurab Zhvania (United Democrats) from coming to power.
The statement by Khachishvili united the opposition parties against the common threat. Quite symbolically, they have gathered to plead the unity at the offices of the National Democratic Party (NDP), leader of which Ghia Chanturia was gunned down in an armed attack, allegedly by the Mkhedrioni paramilitaries. An attack survivor, Chanturia’s wife and presently NDP leader Irina Sarishvili, claims Khachishvili personally participated in the attack.
David Usupashvili, civil activist and one of the initiators of the meeting with the political parties states that it is very important that the parties could overcome their animosity. He says, their unanimity means that the parties have recognized the threat for the democratic values and the national civil society should applaud this.
An issue of agreeing on the ground rules of the political game has dominated the discourse at the meeting of the political parties and NGOs. “We believe, that unless the rules of the political game are changed completely, nobody and nothing will ever succeed in this country” – Usupashvili said.
Political analyst Ghia Nodia of thinks that not only the political parties, but the active part of the society should actively participate in elaboration of these common rules to define the minimum of those ‘values’ around which civilized society shall be built.
Invited politicians emphasized that their union is not aimed at forming an election block. Ex-chairman of the parliament and the leader of the United Democrats Zurab Zhvania said, “we have to unite first of all because of the evident tendency of the government to criminalize the power, revive ethnic and religious tensions. Secondly, we [should unite] to create a code of ethics not only for the politicians, but for the political class as well, i.e. for the people that shape public opinion”.
Approaching Parliamentary elections in 2003 and the issue of transferring the power was the bottom line of the meeting. “The government will be changed. Our goal is to change it peacefully and, most importantly, to ensure that the next government will not be worse than the present one” – said Akaki Asatiani, leader of the Traditionalists party.
Political expert Zurab Chiaberashvii believes that Georgian politics escaped control of the political institutions such as the State Chancellery and the Parliament and moved to the streets. NGOs and politicians believe that chaotic process is desirable for the ruling regime because it could portray itself a guarantor of stability and a lesser evil.
“Our aim of meeting today is to show the society something positive and that we are following certain principles. If we continue to follow these principles, our country will have a democratic future. Therefore there are two really important things at present: to offer positive choice to the society and keep the events under control” – Chiaberashvili told Civil Georgia.
The political forces expressed willingness to create a council together with the non-governmental organizations that will meet regularly to come up with joint approach to various important issues. Though the NGOs did not show much enthusiasm towards institutionalizing relations the both sides agreed to continue with joint meetings in the future.
By Revaz Bakhtadze, Civil Georgia
Political Parties Unite Against the Criminal Threat