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Friday, November 09, 2007

Saakashvili, True Democrat that he is, Calls Elections

So much for the absurd Russophile propaganda that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is not a democrat. In the face of obviously Russia-sponsored subterfuge, he is confident in democracy and will hold elections. Would Putin have done the same under the same circumstances? Of course. Not. Putin doesn't even allow an opposition to exist, because he's a coward. Plain. And. Simple. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Seeking to defuse his country's worst crisis since the Rose Revolution swept him into power in 2003, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced Thursday that Georgia would move up its presidential election to January and allow voters to decide when parliament elections should take place. By setting the new presidential election date as Jan. 5, Saakashvili acquiesced to the demands made by opposition leaders who had mounted six days of protests against his leadership. It came a day after Georgian police violently dispersed legions of demonstrators with truncheons and tear gas, prompting the president to declare a 15-day state of emergency across the nation.

"The essence of my compromise is that we give the opposition a chance to be elected by the people, if it is a force of any standing," Saakashvili said in a televised address to the nation. "I, as the country's leader, want to be provided with a clear mandate," the 39-year-old leader continued, "if I am to counteract all external threats, all pressure and annexation threats." Saakashvili appeared to be referring to Russia, which he has accused of meddling in Georgian affairs.

Saakashvili also set Jan. 5 as the date for a referendum that will ask voters when parliament elections should be held. Opposition leaders wanted parliament elections in April rather than in autumn 2008, when voters were scheduled to vote in both legislative and presidential elections. "We have our victory, and in the best possible terms," said Tina Khidasheli, an opposition leader from Georgia's Republican Party, who doubted Saakashvili could recover politically from the crisis. "Anyone who uses violence against the Georgian people are gone. They're forgotten. It's not just his political career that's over. He's history."

Khidasheli said opposition leaders are discussing who they will select as their candidate to run against Saakashvili, and likely will announce that choice later this month.

Saakashvili's decision to crack down on demonstrators Wednesday, shut down two independent television stations and later impose a nationwide state of emergency drew stiff criticism from the international community.

Georgian riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the country's parliament building for a sixth day of protests against Saakashvili's administration. According to witness reports, police beat many of the fleeing demonstrators with truncheons.

Hundreds of demonstrators sought treatment at local hospitals. Later, Saakashvili announced a 15-day state of emergency that banned further demonstrations and barred all television and radio newscasts except for those broadcast on state-owned Georgian public television.

On Thursday, Russian television broadcast images of hundreds of Georgian troops deploying on the main thoroughfares of the nation's capital, Tbilisi. Before the president's announcement, opposition leaders had said they would abide by the prohibition of new demonstrations. With the situation in the country stabilizing, Saakashvili said the state of emergency likely would be lifted within days.

Especially worrisome for Saakashvili was NATO's reaction to the Georgian government's violent crackdown on demonstrators. Georgia is actively pursuing membership in the western military alliance, and was hoping that NATO officials would officially declare the former Soviet republic a candidate for membership when the alliance holds a summit in Bucharest next April.

"The imposition of emergency rule and the closure of media outlets in Georgia, a partner with which the alliance has an intensified dialogue, are of particular concern and not in line with Euro-Atlantic values," said NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Saakashvili administration officials said a prime motivation for the imposition of a state of emergency was the belief that Russian intelligence agents had been collaborating with Georgian opposition leaders to stage a coup, an allegation that they said they would back up with evidence in coming days.

The Georgian government expelled three Russian diplomats from Tbilisi, a move Russia answered on Thursday by expelling three Georgian diplomats from Moscow.

Russian officials labeled Saakashvili's allegations an "irresponsible provocation."

"We believe Georgia is approaching a serious human rights crisis," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin. "The footage the whole world saw from Tbilisi vividly shows what Georgian-style democracy is. It is the harsh, forceful dispersal of peaceful demonstrations, the closure of free media, the beating of foreign journalists."


Misha said...

November 9 article from

Written by Mikhail Zygar, special correspondent

Pakistani TV Tutorial on How to Declare Emergency Rule

Why did Mikhail Saakashvili need to impose emergency rule? This is probably the main question that no one has an answer for. People were rallying on Rustaveli Avenue almost one week, and it looked like they would not stand out another day. Their major sponsor, Badri Patarkatsishvili left Georgia on Monday and flew to Israel. Apparently, Saakashvili had no reason to react so violently to a manifestation which posed little threat to him.
The fact that Georgian authorities broke loose like a death row inmate on Wednesday proves only one thing. Saakashvili had been considering emergency rule for a while before he issued the decree. Apparently, he was anxious to impose it but he would stop himself. And at last, he let himself go.

Saakashvili made no public appearances all the time that people on Rustaveli Avenue were rallying. He was at home. And, I guess he was watching the telly. But what did they show? On November 2, the first day of the rally, Saakashvili was watching live reports from the square in front of the parliament all day long – on Imedi, on Rustavi 2, on Russian and Western TV channels. They were saying unpleasant words about him, and he got sulky. He was keeping the irritation inside the whole day long.

On the morning of November 3, the picture changed. News was about Pakistan where President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and ordered riot police to disperse protestors with gas and truncheons. Shortly afterwards, he shut down independent TV channels. He arrested opposition leaders and addressed the nation saying that he had no choice and the state of emergency is a forced reaction to wicked plans of a foreign enemy.

I think Mikhail Saakashvili was all ears at that moment. He was hanging on every word of the TV presenter and perhaps writing everything down in a notepad. Just in case. From Saturday onwards he was thinking: “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

Considering emergency rule the Georgian president must have come up with 100 arguments why he deserves more than Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. First, Saakashvili is defending democracy, not authoritarianism. Second and third, just the same thing, really. The United States does not really condemn the Pakistani leader after all. They will surely support the Georgian president. He spent a lot of time thinking, but finally could not take it any more and copied it all word-to-word.

But the news program from which Mikhail Saakashvili may have drawn inspiration for his actions did not mention one thing. Emergency rule for Pervez Musharraf is an act of despair. In modern Pakistan, a president cannot just step down. He will either be jailed or killed, so he has to try to stay in power by the end of his teeth.

Politics works in the same way in most former Soviet republics except for some – or at least we used to think so. But it seems it’s the same everywhere round here. If Pakistan can be a Pakistan, why can’t we all be like it?

Anonymous said...

Why would Russia support an opposition that if anything is more Russophobic than Saakashvilli himself?