14 May 2009
Opposition-Saakashvili talks conclude fruitlessly
As expected, brief talks between Georgian opposition leaders and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili have concluded with no positive outcomes. The opposition, which has mounted daily protests for over a month, entered the meeting saying they would accept nothing less than Saakashvili’s full resignation. However, participation in the opposition protests, which began impressively, has dwindled to a few thousand a day and has placed little pressure on the president to submit.
With both sides looking for a token face-saving victory, it made sense to meet and talk it out, but it is also no surprise that such meetings were wholly unproductive.
“Perception of the crisis by us and by Mikheil Saakashvili absolutely differ,” Levan Gachechiladze, an opposition figure, said in a brief comment made after two-hour talks with President Saakashvili.
“He believes that everything is all right in the country and we believe that everything is very bad; that is the only result of this meeting.”
In a statement broadcast after the meeting, Saakashvili said that he offered full amnesty for all activists and opposition politicians who had been arrested over the last few months, and the creation of a constitutional commission to rewrite the Georgian constitution.
Saakashvili then traveled to the port city of Batumi to announce the construction of new opera house there. For freelance journalist Paul Rimple, the absurdity was complete.
You are the president of a small nation with a population half the number of the city of Chicago’s. You engaged your nation in a war with Russia, which was lost in 5 days. The only thing keeping the country economically alive is the billions of dollars western countries donated before the great global economic depression. Thousands of people want your resignation and have blocked traffic on two major streets in the capital and threaten to block the country’s major highway too. What do you do?
If you are Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, then you go to your Black Sea city of Batumi and announce the construction of “Europe’s best opera house.”
This poor nation. On one hand you have a bunch of knuckleheads paralyzing local Tbilisi businesses for their own personal political ambitions and on the other, you have the president telling the people of Adjara an opera house will improve their living conditions.